NEW YORK -- After a long flight, a pre-dawn arrival and a workout that came all too soon, Derek Jeter is ready for the playoffs.
Almost. First, a good night's sleep would be nice.
"Man, I got home at 4:30. I don't even know what I'm saying right now," a bleary-eyed Jeter said Thursday, a day before he and the New York Yankees face Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in an AL division series opener (8:30 p.m., TBS, Radio 1230 AM). "It's not fun yet."
It's about to be, though. Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia in Game One is about as good as postseason matchups get.
"It's funny. The season has kind of gone full circle," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We started in March with Verlander and CC opening day and now the playoffs. It should be fun."
Verlander, who went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, looms as one of the biggest first-round obstacles for the Yankees. Of course, the Yankees have an ace of their own in Sabathia, who goes against a Tigers' lineup that carried Detroit to a 30-9 finish to the season.
The Yankees have been coasting since wrapping up the AL East. The last time these teams met in the postseason -- the 2006 division series won by Detroit, 3-1, on its way to an AL pennant -- it was the Tigers who came in cold after losing their last five. This year, the Yankees finished by being swept in Tampa Bay and losing their last four.
"A whole new season starts tomorrow for everybody," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
No more setting up rotations, no more bench players starting and no more protecting key relievers -- as Yankees manager Joe Girardi did by not using Mariano Rivera, David Robertson or Rafael Soriano in the finale against the Rays. No more anything but trying to make every out count.
It all starts tonight with the tastiest of first-round pitching matchups.
"Hopefully, it's a good one," Sabathia said. "We've faced off a lot, me playing in that division for a long time. He's had one of the best seasons for a pitcher ever, I think."
A Rangers-Rays rematch
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers had to win their last six games in the regular season to earn home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs this time.
Just to get into the postseason, Tampa Bay had to overcome a nine-game deficit in the final month and a seven-run deficit in the final game.
"Right now there's nothing that we don't think that we can't do. We believe," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Thursday, a day before the opener of a rematch of last year's AL division series (5 p.m, TBS). "We definitely have a strong belief system going on right now, regardless of how we can look at these other teams that we have to play, and maybe there's areas that they appear to be stronger than we, and probably are."
A tired Tampa Bay team arrived Thursday at Rangers Ballpark, where the defending AL champion Rangers were already working out.
When the Rangers and Rays met in the playoffs last season, the visiting team won every game. That's the only time that has ever happened in the majors.