YANKEES 13, TIGERS 4
There are 28 major-league teams who rightly fear facing left-hander David Price and there is one team that does not. After Wednesday’s game between the Tigers and the Yankees at chilly Comerica Park it became obvious the Yankees do not.
The Yankees hounded and harassed Price (1-1) for 10 hits, three walks and a hit batter on 88 pitches in just 2 1/3 innings as New York put a serious hurting on Detroit on a 38-degree night that even included snow flurries.
The last time the Yankees faced Price was last August at Yankee Stadium as he was making his debut with the Tigers. Price ended up getting shelled for nine consecutive hits in the first inning and eight runs in all in what was the worst outing of his career.
The Yankees seemed to have picked it where they left off.
The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate in the first inning and forced Price to throw 56 pitches in a six-run inning keyed by a bases-loaded double by Gregorio Petit that drove in three runs.
Things for the Price and the Tigers began to look a bit better when right-hander Adam Warren struggled with his command so badly that he walked four of the first five batters he faced and he ended up yielding four runs while the Tigers batted around in the bottom of the first.
However, while the Yankees added a pair of runs in the second inning off Price on back-to-back two-out RBI triples by Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley, Warren (1-1) settled down to keep the Tigers off the board for the next 4 1/3 innings to earn his first victory of the season.
The Yankees padded their lead in the fourth inning off right-hander Angel Nesbitt on a two-run double by Didi Gregarious. The closed out the scoring in the seventh when Mark Teixeira connected for his fifth home run of the season – a three-run shot – off right-hander Al Albuquerque.
After two disappointing starts, Warren was charged with four runs on five hits and four walks while he fanned three in 5 2/3 innings.
Yankee relievers Justin Wilson, David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve combined to pitch 3 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the rout as the Tigers did not advance a runner past first base after the first inning.
The Yankees defense also combined for inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth innings and they have now turned nine double plays against the Tigers in the first three games of the series.
With the victory the Yankees climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this season as 8-7. Since opening the season 3-6, the Yankees have now won five of the past six games. The Tigers fell to 11-4.
- Teixeira’s home run was his fifth and the Yankees’ 21st of the season, which leads all of Major League Baseball. Who would have believed having seen this team struggle to score runs all through spring training would evolve into the Bronx Bombers again? Despite batting .204, Teixeira leads the Yankees with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
- Give Petit credit for setting the tone for the rout with his bases-clearing double with two out in the first inning. Petit was starting in place of lefty-swinging second baseman Stephen Drew and he made the most of it despite entering the game batting .111. The Yankees actually scored seven of their eight runs off Price with two out.
- Chris Young followed up on his 3-for-3 night on Tuesday by going 3-for-6 with a double and two runs scored. In his past three starts, Young is 7-for-14 (.500) with two home runs and five RBIs. Overall he is 14-for-38 (.394) with four homers and nine RBIs. Manager Joe Girardi has a difficult problem in getting Young at-bats at a time when he is the hottest hitter on the team.
I will admit it did not look promising when Warren was throwing pitches in the first inning that were going everywhere but the strike zone. But he settled down and the Yankees have now beaten a very good Detroit team like they own them. They are showing signs that the dire predictions of the so-called experts were egregiously wrong.
The weather may be cold but the red-hot Yankees will have a chance to win the four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.
Ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.94 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off an impressive performance on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tanaka blanked the Rays on just two hits and no walks while he struck out eight in eight innings.
The Yankees lead in home runs and the will face a right-hander Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 7.71 ERA), who has already given up five. Sanchez was shelled for nine runs on nine hits (two of them home runs) and two walks in just 3 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, TIGERS 2
When the Yankees acquired 25-year-old right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Miami Marlins they knew he would be a work in progress. After watching him throw seven-plus innings of one -run ball against the mighty Tigers on Tuesday, it appears the work is paying off.
Eovaldi (1-0) held the Tigers to a single run on eight hits and one walk while he struck four and the Yankees got a pair of solo home runs from Chris Young and Stephen Drew as New York cooled off the red-hot Tigers at rainy, windy and chilly Comerica Park.
The Yankees staked Eovaldi an early 1-0 lead in the first inning against left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-1) when Brett Gardner drew a one-out walk and, one batter later, Mark Teixeira stroked an opposite-field double to plate Gardner.
Eovaldi, meanwhile, was buoyed by four double plays that kept the Tigers’ vaunted offense from scoring a run. In fact, the Yankees have turned seven double plays on the Tigers in the past two games.
The Yankees, however, were unable to get any more runs off Lobstein, who left after six innings yielding one run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
But the Yankees were able to take advantage of a porous Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh inning as Young led off the frame with his fourth home run of the season on a 3-1 offering from left-hander Ian Krol. One batter later, Drew touched Krol for his fourth home run of the season.
Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny replaced Krol and, with two out Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and stole second base. Gardner then hit an infield single that deflected off Gorzelanny’s glove, allowing Ellsbury to advance to third.
Right-hander Al Alburquerque then replaced Gorzelanny and Alburquerque uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ellsbury to score to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-0.
The Tigers did get to Eovaldi in the bottom of the seventh as J.D. Martinez laced a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on sacrifice fly off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.
The Yankees added an unearned run in the ninth inning when Gardner led off with a single, advanced to second on a long fly ball to deep left-center by Alex Rodriguez and scored from second on a hard-hit ground ball into left by Brian McCann that was scored as an error on third baseman Nick Castrellanos.
The Tigers mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth with a single by Martinez and a double by Cespedes off right-hander Chris Martin. Closer Andrew Miller then entered the game and walked Castellanos and pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, which scored Martinez and brought the potential winning run to the plate.
However, Miller was able to preserve the victory by striking out Jose Iglesias to record his fifth save in as many chances.
With the victory the Yankees pulled back to the .500 mark at 7-7. The Tigers dropped to 11-4.
- Eovaldi had only one perfect inning but the double plays and strikeouts allowed him to frustrate the Tigers. The Yankees have to be encouraged by the starts they have gotten the past two nights against the Tigers from CC Sabathia and Eovaldi. They combined to yield just three runs on 15 hits and six walks while striking out nine in 15 innings of work. If Sabathia and Eovaldi do that consistently then the Yankees might have a solid rotation that will allow them to contend.
- Carlos Beltran may want to watch out for his job because Young, 31, has been absolutely sensational as a starter against right-handed pitching. Young started for Beltran in right and was 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, a walk, a run scored and one RBI. In limited play, Young is 11-for-32 with four homers and nine RBIs. Beltran, 37, is batting .171 with no home runs and six RBIs.
- The Yankees turned four double plays and Teixeira turned in a gem to cut off a potential tying run in the third inning after Castellanos and Avila opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Eovaldi. After Iglesias legged out a fielder’s choice grounder that erased Avila at second, Anthony Gose hit a chopper to Teixeira at first. Teixeira froze Castellanos between third and home plate and Chase Headley tagged him before he could get back to third. Eovaldi then retired Ian Kinsler on a pop up to end the threat. Good pitching and great defense go hand-in-hand and the Yankees got both on Tuesday.
The Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position but I am not going to complain because (1) they won the game and (2) the Tigers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have stood toe-to-toe with what could be the best team in baseball the past two nights so I have no complaints.
The Yankees on Tuesday recalled left-hander Chasen Shreve, 24, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Branden Pinder, 26, to Scranton. Shreve was sent down on April 11 after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 19-inning loss on April 10 so that the Yankees could recall a fresh arm from Scranton, left-hander Matt Tracy. The Yankees were forced to wait a mandatory 10 days before they could recall Shreve, who now gives manager Joe Girardi a third left-hander in the bullpen.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Tigers on Wednesday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (0-1, 4.82 ERA) will make his third start of the season. Warren, 27, has been a bit of a disappointment after pitching so well in spring training to earn the job as the fifth starter. He yielded four runs on six hits (two of them home runs) and two walks in four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
The Tigers will start left-hander David Price (1-0, 0.40 ERA), who gave up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out nine in eight innings in a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT an the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4
The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.
For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.
Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.
The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque – taking advantage of four walks – scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.
The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.
The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.
Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.
The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.
Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.
- Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
- Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.
- The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
- Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
- Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.
A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run. . . . Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return. . . . When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.
If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 4
YANKEES 10, TIGERS 1
When the Detroit Tigers traded Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees in 2009 they never could have envisioned how badly the principal in that trade would come back to the Motor City to haunt them.
With the Tigers needing only one victory to advance to the ALCS in front of sellout crowd of 43,527 at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, Granderson made two spectacular highlight-reel catches and drove in a key run early to back the solid pitching of A.J. Burnett as the Yankees staved off elimination with a decisive thrashing of the Tigers.
For Burnett (1-0), the night was sweet redemption from past postseason failures and the travails of two very bad regular seasons. Burnett was not even scheduled to start in this series before rain forced a suspension of Game 1. Coming off a season in which he was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, Yankee fans had there hearts in their throats in the opening frame as Burnett, almost true to expected form, walked the bases loaded with two outs and Don Kelly heading to the dish.
After Burnett fell behind 1-0, Granderson’s grandiose evening in the city where he started his career began. Kelly laced a sharp line-drive that was heading right over Granderson’s head in centerfield. Granderson first took a step in and then retreated, spun his head around, extended his glove as high as he could and corralled the ball in the tip of the webbing of his glove to save three runs from scoring.
From that moment on Burnett was a different pitcher. Other than giving up a solo home run to Victor Martinez to lead off the fourth, Burnett was able to command the strike zone with his fastball and unleash his deadly curveball to keep the Tigers off balance.
Burnett gave up only four hits and, despite walking four batters, he struck out three in 5 2/3 innings. It was Burnett’s first postseason victory for the Yankees since his scintillating shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. The road from an anathema to a postseason savior has been a very long one for the 34-year-old right-hander.
Granderson’s catch also seemed to spark the offense, which was oddly dormant for the last two innings on Monday and the first two innings against Tigers starter Rick Porcello (0-1).
Pocello opened the third by hitting designated hitter Jorge Posada with an 0-1 pitch. Russell Martin followed with the Yankees’ first hit.
One out later, Derek Jeter laced a double over the head of Austin Jackson (who the Tigers acquired from the Yankees in the Granderson deal) off the base of the centerfield wall that scored Posada easily. But Martin had to slide to the extreme outside of the plate and reach back with his left hand to avoid the relay throw from Jhonny Peralta and the swipe tag of catcher Alex Avila.
After Martinez’s home run that sliced the lead to 2-1, the Yankees added to their margin in the fourth off Porcello.
Martin opened the frame with a another single. Instead of laying down a sacrifice bunt to move Martin, Gardner fooled the Tigers and sliced an opposite field single to left.
Jeter then botched a sacrifice bunt by hitting the ball right back to Porcello, who turned and forced Martin at third.
But Granderson bailed out Jeter and the Yankees by lacing a double off the wall in centerfield to score Gardner and advance Jeter to third. After Robinson Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases, Alex Rodriguez drove in his third run of the series without the benefit of a hit with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Energized by a 4-1 lead, Burnett was able to keep the Tigers off the board and he was removed in the sixth inning after he gave up a two-out single to Kelly.
Rafael Soriano came in to relieve Burnett with Peralta strolling to the plate.
Peralta turned on Soriano’s first offering and lofted a high fly ball into the gap in left-center. That is when Granderson came back to take another giant bite out of the hand of the team that once fed him.
Granderson raced into left-center and laid out his body in a full dive and caught the ball again in the tip of the webbing in a play that easily outshone the multi-run-saving catch he made in the first inning. Tiger players and Tiger fans watched stunned as the centerfielder they once cheered and loved had come back to put a nice leather-laced dagger in their collective hearts.
While Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way, the Yankees’ offense unleashed a torrent of hits on the Tigers’ bullpen to ensure that any thoughts of a Tiger comeback was futile.
The Yankees ripped former teammate Phil Coke (who was also part of the Granderson trade), poor mistreated Al Alburquerque, Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry for six runs on seven hits as they sent 11 batters to the plate in a 35-minute eighth inning.
The Tigers did really get generous when Alburquerque balked in a run and Schlereth uncorked a wild pitch to allow another run to score.
Cano capped off the inning with a two-run single that pushed the margin to 10-1, marking the most runs the Yankees have scored in an ALDS game.
By that time, most of the Tiger faithful had abandoned their playoff seats and headed home, which is where they will have to watch the fate of their team in Game 5 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
With Granderson’s support in the field and with his bat, the night truly belonged to Burnett, however.
Manager Joe Girardi said it best: “I was proud of what he did. In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year.”
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 1
YANKEES 9, TIGERS 3
When managers and coaches get together with their pitchers to discuss a game plan to how to attack the hitters on the New York Yankees they all say “Do not let Robinson Cano beat you.”
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, pitching coach Jeff Jones and the Tiger pitching staff got a close-up view on why they say that about Cano on Saturday night.
Cano absolutely crushed two doubles as well as a majestic grand slam homer and drove in a franchise-tying record of six RBIs in a postseason game to back the strong “relief” pitching of Ivan Nova as the Yankees took the fight out the Tigers for a Game 1 victory in their American League Division Series.
Nova (1-0), meanwhile, picked up for CC Sabathia in third inning and only allowed two hits and three walks before faltering in the ninth inning. The rookie 24-year-old right-hander came into the game having won 12 consecutive decisions and had not lost a game since June 3.
The Yankees and Tigers played to a 1-1 tie on Friday before the game was suspended after an hour and 17 minute rain delay. So Game 1 resumed in the bottom of the second inning at Yankee Stadium with nary a drop of precipitation but a brisk was blowing in from right and the temperature dipped into the mid-50s.
However, the weather did not deter 50,940 fans from showing up to watch the completion of Game 1, the largest crowd to ever see a game at Yankee Stadium, old or new.
It was Cano and the Yankees who struck first off the Tigers’ right-hander Doug Fister, who in a sense was coming in relief of likely American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.
With none on and two out in the fifth inning, Curtis Granderson singled to right field off Fister. Cano followed with a deep line-drive to left-center that either hit off the top of the wall, caromed off a fan and fell back onto the field for a home run or a double that hit the top of the wall and just spun back into play to score Granderson.
Crew chief Gerry Davis immediately took his umpires into the replay room off the third-base dugout and came out shortly signaling Cano had indeed hit a double. Although the Yankees had taken a 2-1 lead, Fister and the Tigers felt they were lucky to have just allowed a run in that situation.
However, luck turned into unmitigated disaster for Fister in the sixth inning.
Mark Teixeira greeted Fister with a first-pitch, opposite field double to left. One out later, Fister appeared content to pitch around Posada by walking him on a 3-2 pitch well out of the strike zone. Russell Martin then dribbled a slow grounder to Jhonny Peralta at short and Peralta’s only play was to first to retire Martin.
Fister then went after Brett Gardner to end the inning.
He immediately jumped ahead on the count 0-2. Fister then opted for a curve to finish Gardner off. But, instead, Fister hung the pitch and Gardner squirted a roller to the right of second baseman Ryan Raburn and on into centerfield to score Teixeira and Posada, giving the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
That proved to the key at-bat of the game because Derek Jeter followed with a single to right-center to advance Gardner to third. Jeter later stole second and Fister ended up losing Granderson by walking him to load the bases.
Leyland opted to make a move to the bullpen, where he had left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Al Alburquerque warming. Most managers in this situation would bring in the lefty to face the left-hand hitting Cano. But Leyland must have made a wrong turn at Alburqueque because he did the opposite.
On Alburquerque’s second offering, Cano uncoiled his familiar picture-perfect swing and connected solidly and decisively. Despite a brisk breeze blowing in from right, Cano’s drive cut through the wind to land in the second deck of the right-field bleachers. Suddenly, the Yankees’ slight 4-1 lead had turned into a decisive 8-1 margin.
Alburquerque had the entered the game coming off a season in which he was 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA. he had allowed only three inherited runners to score all season and he had not allowed a home run in the major leagues. Cano took care of all of that with just one beautiful swing.
But the big loser in this Alburquerque mess was Fister (0-1).
Despite pitching well early and escaping trouble, he was charged with six runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. He came into the game with an 8-1 record and 1.79 ERA since the Tigers acquired him from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline. He also had not allowed more than a run in his last 55 innings during the regular season. The Yankees ended string that with six runs in the sixth.
The Yankees added a run in the eighth off lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth. And as with all the runs the Yankees scored in this game, it came with two outs.
Jeter stroked a single and that same guy Cano laced a double over the head of Jackson in center for a double that scored Jeter easily. That gave Cano his sixth RBI of the night to tie him with Bobby Richardson, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui for the franchise record for RBIs in a postseason game.
Nova, meanwhile, was able to escape some trouble of his own with a little help from his defense.
After retiring the first seven batters he faced, Nova walked Alex Avila on a 3-2 pitch. Raburn followed with an opposite-field single to right. Peralta then laced a line-drive single that fell just in front of Granderson in center. Avila got a slow read on the ball and, as he headed for home, Jeter took the relay throw from Gramderson and fired home to Martin. Martin caught the ball in the right-hand hitters’ batters box just as Avila lunged into him.
Home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo called Avila out and the Yankees kept a big run for the Tigers off the board.
To open the sixth, Nova walked the only Tiger hitter with speed in Austin Jackson. Leyland figured it was time to send Jackson to second to get something started for the Tigers with then down 2-1. Jackson broke for second on a 1-2 pitch to Magglio Ordonez and Ordonez hit the ball right to Cano, who was covering second waiting for a throw to nab Jackson. Cano merely scooped the grounder, stepped on second, avoided Jackson’s slide and flipped to first to double up Ordonez.
Nick Swisher then laid out to catch a liner to right off the bat of Delmon Young to end the inning.
However, Nova was unable to escape the ninth.
With one out, Young lined a ball of Nova’s backside for an infield single. Miguel Cabrera coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Victor Martinez singled sharply to right to load the bases.
Manager Joe Girardi, hoping to avoid using Mariano Rivera, selected right-hander Luis Ayala instead. Ayala was coming off a rough outing against the Rays on Thursday in which Boone Logan and he had combined to give up six runs to the Rays in the eighth inning with the Yankees holding a 7-0 lead. That led to the Rays’ eventual 8-7 victory in 12 innings to allow the Rays to make the playoffs.
For Yankee fans it was almost deja vu all over again.
Ayala induced Avila to hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed a run to score. But he compounded the problem by giving up a single to left by Raburn that scored another run and Peralta followed with a bloop single to center reloaded the bases. Girardi mercifully pulled the plug on Ayala and Rivera was forced to come in as Ayala was showered with a chorus of Bronx jeers – well-earned, too.
Rivera came in to face former Yankee infielder Wilson Betemit. But if any Tiger fans had gone to the kitchen for a bag a chips, they would have missed Rivera blowing three pitches past Betemit for the final out to give the Yankees an important 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Verlander unable to pitch again until Game 3.
It is funny how in a regular season in which the Yankees were plagued by 22 rain delays and nine postponements that forced so many doubleheaders and lost off days and yet the rain that fell on Friday actually worked so greatly to the Yankees’ benefit on Saturday.
Rain, rain, don’t go away.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES PREVIEW
DETROT TIGERS (95-67) vs. NEW YORK YANKEES (97-65)
The 2011 Yankees lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname. They hit more bombs than any team in baseball. But, they also led the major leagues in stolen bases. That is a tough combination to beat because it has happened so rarely. That is why the Tigers have to be worried. You shut down the longball and the Yankees steal bases and score runs on base hits. You shut down the running game and sooner or later someone will hit a home run.The Yankees boast two American League MVP candidates in Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. They also have the third-best home run hitter in the league in Mark Teixeira. You add Alex Rodriguez, wounded or not, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada and you have a veteran lineup that is used to making starters work and not chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Then you have table-setters like Granderson, Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, who can get on base and create havoc on the basepaths with their feet.
The Tigers, on the other hand, are a reflection of their two best hitters: Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. They are not a speed team at all. They play station-to-station baseball and look for the extra-base hit or home run. Cabrera hit .344 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs. Martinez, the DH, hit .330 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs. They set the tone for the Tigers’ offense. In addition, they have rookie catcher Alex Avila and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who combined for 40 home runs and 168 RBIs. The Tigers even added former Ray and Twin outfielder Delmon Young to the mix. What speed there is lies with leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who stole 22 bases. No one else is even in double figures. Manager Jim Leyland plays platoons at the other three spots to match up against opposing pitchers. This is very similar to the offenses of the Minnesota Twins the Yankees have destroyed in recent playoff series.
EDGE: You have to give this to the Yankees because of their combination of power and speed. They did not lead the league in runs scored for nothing. Detroit’s station-to-station philosophy plays right into the Yankees’ hands. Teams that run on them have had more success.
The Yankees will open the playoffs with a three-man rotation of CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA), Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70 ERA) and Freddy Garcia (12-8, 3.62 ERA). Sabathia is expected to pitch Game 4 no matter what happens and Nova will get the ball in Game 5. The Yankees are 8-1 in Sabathia’s postseason starts and Sabathia is 5-1 in those starts. Sabathia is 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA against the Tigers in his career. This season he was 0-1 with a no-decision victory on Opening Day and an ERA of 4.15. Nova will be making his first postseason appearances and starts in this series. He has not lost a decision since he lost to the Los Angels Angels on June 3. Since then he is 12-0 in his 16 starts. He has never started against the Tigers but he did make his major-league debut against them on May 13, 2010 with two innings of scoreless relief. Garcia earned his start because 16 of his 25 starts were quality starts. Garcia also has postseason experience. He won three games with the White Sox in 2005 to help lead them to a championship. Garcia is 18-8 with a 3.88 in his career against the Tigers. This season he was 0-1 in his only start against Detroit. He gave up four runs on 10 hits in seven innings on May 4 at Comerica Park.
The Tigers plan to start Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, in that order, to open the series. They have not announced a Game 4 starter, but Leyland has said Verlander will not pitch in that game. He will start Game 5, if necessary. Verlander (24-5, 2.70 ERA) is likely going to be a unanimous choice for the A.L. Cy Young Award and also a potential MVP. It was easily his best season. It was his first 20-game season and the first time he recorded a sub-3.00 ERA. He is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in his career. This season Verlander was 0-0 in his two starts against the Yankees and in both games the Yankees rallied late to win. Fister (11-13, 2.83 ERA) was a midseason acquisition from Seattle and he paid big dividends. He was 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his 10 starts for the Tigers. He was 3-12 with the punchless Mariners. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees. He lost his only start against the Yankees this season on July 26 at Yankee Stadium as a member of the Mariners, giving up three runs in seven innings. Sabathia struck out 14 and won the game 4-1. Scherzer (15-9, 4.43 ERA) has very good stuff as his 207 strikeouts attest. But he has been hit hard, too. He has had success against the Yankees. He is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA. He was 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA this season. He won on April 3 in New York despite giving up six runs. The Tigers took advantage of Phil Hughes pitching with a weak shoulder. Om May 4 at Comerica Park, Scherzer shut out the Yankees over eight innings, fanning nine batters.
EDGE: The Tigers have an edge but it is not as big as you would think. Verlander has not beaten the Yankees this season and he really has struggled at Yankee Stadium. Game 1 is not a lock for the Tigers. Nova has been doubted all season and the Yankees have had success against Fister. The Tigers’ biggest edge may be Game 3 with Scherzer pitching. I will take Sabathia over anyone the Tigers can find to pitch against the Yankees in Game 4.
This was the best bullpen in baseball. They recorded the best ERA in baseball by a margin of a half-run. Think about that. The Yankees are more than just Mariano Rivera and his 602 career saves and his 44 saves and his 1.91 ERA at age 41. The Yankees lost key relievers like Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano to injuries early and found out just how great David Robertson was. Robertson led all major-league relievers in ERA with 1.08 and he struck out 100 batters in on;y 66 2/3 innings. He also made the A.L. All-Star team. Last season’s A.L. saves leader Soriano returned from right elbow inflammation and pitched very well down the stretch. He is content now to pitch the seventh inning. That means the Yankees have reduced the game to six innings. You get to their starters or you lose. The Yankees also have lefty Boone Logan (3.46 ERA) and right-handers Cory Wade (2.04 ERA) and Luis Ayala (2.08 ERA). The Yankees have also placed starters A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes in the bullpen for this series. Hughes was the key setup man to Rivera in the 2009 championship season so he knows how to pitch quality relief.
A.L. saves leader and resident 100% beef hot dog Jose Valverde heads up a pretty decent bullpen. Valverde did not blow a save this season, which is hanging up there like a tempting pinata for the Yankees in this series. The Tigers’ setup man is Joaquin Benoit , who was not as good as he was with the Rays in 2010 but he still had 47 holds. They also have rookie right-hander Al Alburquerque (6-1, 1.97 ERA). They have a pair of lefties in Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke. Both have ERAs over 4.00, however. The Tigers also will have underachieving righty Ryan Perry and reserve starters Rick Porcello and Brad Penny to use. This bullpen has some quality in it but it also has a soft underbelly that can be exploited by a team with a good offense like the Yankees.
EDGE: The Yankees clearly have the superior bullpen and it is a huge edge going into this series. The Yankees’ pen shortens the game to six innings and the Tigers merely get it to seven. That is a big difference when you are talking a short series like this. Look for the Yankees to attack pitchers like Perry and Schlereth in this series.
Due to injuries and manager Joe Girardi resting his payers down the stretch, the Yankee bench has played extensively this season. Infield reserve Eduardo Nunez started for Jeter and Rodriguez when they were hurt this season and hit very well. Nunez can play second, short or third. But he is an error waiting to happen as a fielder. Eric Chavez, 33, meanwhile is a former Gold Glove winner at third and he provides a veteran lefty power hitter off the bench. He also could start if Rodriguez is unable to play because of his thumb or knee injuries. Outfield reserve Andruw Jones is actually the platoon leftfielder against left-handed pitching and he can also DH and play rightfield. He provides power against lefties. Jorge Posada may be at the end of his career at age 40, but he still can hit from the left side, as he will in this series. Backup catcher Jesus Montero will likely not see any action as a catcher and will play a limited role since the Yankees do not want to pinch-hit him and lose Martin to injury. But when he gets his chance, Montero, 21, can be a valuable bat off the bench with his incredible power. He hit four home runs in 61 at-bats in September. The Yankees also chose to keep Chris Dickerson as outfield reserve. Dickerson will likely be a late-inning replacement for Nick Swisher in rightfield. He also provides another left-handed bat off the bench and he can be used as a pinch-runner late in a game.
The Tigers platoon a lot in the outfield and at the middle infield spots so their bench has been extensively as well. The reserves include backup catcher Omir Santos, veteran outfielder Magglio Ordonez, former Yankee infielder Wilson Betemit and young outfielder Andy Dirks. Manager Jim Leyland is not afraid to use his bench and he is good at putting them in spots in which they succeed. There is not a whole lot of power or speed here. These guys, much like the Tiger starters, just try to get on and wait to be driven in.
EDGE: The Yankees have a much deeper bench. How many teams have two former Gold Glove winners and a former All-Star catcher on the bench? These players have also played a lot this season and are ready to go for the postseason. Where the Tigers bench lacks speed and power, the Yankees are loaded with it on their bench.
The Tigers won the season series 4-3 but these teams last played on May 5 in Detroit. That was an awful long time ago and both teams have improved some since then. The Tigers defeated the Yankees 3-0 in the ALDS in 2006 in which the Tigers went on to lose the World Series to St. Louis. Oddly, it was a soft-tossing left-hander named Kenny Rogers who gave the Yankees fits in Game 3. Garcia is a veteran soft-tossing right-hander scheduled to pitch in Game 3 for the Yankees. Could this be karma for the Tigers? The Yankee roster is full of veterans with lots of postseason experience. The Tigers have some older veterans but they also have a lot of young players, particularly pitchers, who have no postseason experience. That is something that could be in the Yankees’ favor. Jeter is also one of those players who makes plays that can turn a series. Who can forget “The Flip?” How about in 2009 when he took two outfield relays and cut down two Twins runners who had rounded the base too far? Watch what The Captain does in the series. It only takes one play to turn a series sometimes.
EDGE: The Yankees have a lot going for them in addition to home field. The Tigers will not back down but, ultimately, I do not think the Central Division is an equal or even close to the teams from the East. The Tigers have been hot, but who have they been playing except weak division rivals in September? That tends to make their record and their stats look inflated. The Yankees have a real edge here.
The Yankees will win this series in four games. The only game I see the Tigers having any edge is possibly Game 3 in Comerica Park with Scherzer facing Garcia. Sabathia has been money in the playoffs and I see him pitching well enough to give the Yankees victories in Game 1 and Game 4 – even if he is gone before the Yankees win it. There is just too much talent on this Yankee team even with a somewhat suspect Rodriguez due to his health.