It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, and then it was the times that made the worst of times seem like winning the lottery. The Yankees entered the ninth inning down 4-0 with a hapless offense and having had Derek Lowe in the game to give up a home run when the game was still 2-0, but they sure did give it their all against Detroit closer Jose Valverde. Ichiro Suzuki kicked off the fireworks with a one out, two run home run to cut the deficit in half, and after a Robinson Cano strikeout (Cano, incidentally, just looks terrible at the plate right now, and ended this at bat by whiffing at a 91 MPH fastball literally right down the middle), Mark Teixeira battled back from 0-2 in the count to work a walk, bringing up the tying run in the form of…Raul Ibanez. In a moment Aaron Sorkin would dismiss as over-dramatized, Ibanez hit the ball three rows deep into the right center field seats, and suddenly the Yankees were alive with a 4-4 tie.
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Tonight has been a disaster for the Yankees in almost every possible way with the exception of one inning, but the worst turn may have come after the Tigers took the lead in the 12th when Derek Jeter had to leave to game after seeming to seriously injure his left foot. That’s the same foot he suffered a bone bruise in and had to leave Game Three earlier in the week. It wasn’t apparent on replay what exactly caused the injury, but Jeter crumpled to the ground and was screaming in agony on the field, before being helped off by trainers while putting no weight at all on the foot. That, obviously, is never a good sign.
Update: It’s a fractured ankle, and Jeter is officially done for the season. Eduardo Nunez will replace him on the roster.
Who needs days off anyway? We’re right back to baseball after last night’s win over the Orioles, and now we get to watch Andy Pettitte face the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Here’s the lineup courtesy of LoHud. Derek Jeter SS Ichiro Suzuki LF Robinson Cano 2B Mark Teixeira 1B Raul Ibanez DH Alex Rodriguez [...]
Here are the full ineups for tonight’s ALCS opener at Yankee Stadium:
Austin Jackson CF
Omar Infante 2B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Delmon Young DH
Jhonny Peralta SS
Andy Dirks LF
Avisail Garcia RF
Gerald Laird C
Doug Fister RHP
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Nick Swisher RF
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Andy Pettitte LHP
Benching A-Rod against right handers lasted all of one day, it seems, which was pretty predictable. Eric Chavez went hitless and struck out twice yesterday, and benching A-Rod again when the Tigers are going to use nothing but right handed starters would more or less commit Joe Girardi to leaving A-Rod on the bench for the entire series.
Also, the Yankees confirmed that Phil Hughes, not C.C. Sabathia, will start Game Three on Tuesday. Sabathia will start Game Four on his normal rest, and then be lined up to start a potential Game Seven on short rest if need be. There’s an argument to be made that he should make the first start on three days rest, but I don’t think it matters much. He’d have to make one of the two starts on short rest if he’s to pitch twice in the series, but the only one of the two games you’re guaranteed to play is Game Four. Might as well have Sabathia at full strength for that one, and worry about Game Seven if and when it comes to that.
The Yankees’ roster machinations seemed to indicate that they were leaning towards using David Phelps or Derek Lowe to start Game Two tomorrow, but it turns out that Joe Girardi agrees with me and will be calling on Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest. It will be the first time in his career Kuroda starts with less than four days of rest, but he should have a full bullpen behind him, and even then he’s probably no worse of a bet to keep the Yankees in the game for ~5 innings than either of the likely alternatives.
After a year away, the Yankees are back in the ALCS for the third time since 2009, and they’ll be facing the team that kept it from being a four-peat in the Detroit Tigers. Both teams went the distance in their respective ALDS series, so we won’t see either staff ace until the series relocates to Detroit on Tuesday. Still, each team is throwing a quality starter out there for the opener, and the Yankees will get a bit of added boost from the sentimentality of the night. Let’s take a look at what will matter tonight, and for the rest of the series.
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I expect that we’ll get some kind of announcement about this today, so allow me to get my opinion on the record here very quickly: Hiroki Kuroda should start Game Two of the series on short rest. That’s not quite as obvious as it sounds, really, as Kuroda has never done that before in his major league career, and he had already exceeded his previous career high in innings pitched before the postseason even began, so all the rest he can get would probably be beneficial to him. Here’s the problem, though: if the Yankees don’t start him in Game Two, than either Kuroda or C.C. Sabathia would be left making just one start in a seven game series.
Here’s how it works: Andy Pettitte and David Phelps start the first two games, and then Sabathia and Kuroda start games three and four in some combination. If Kuroda can’t start on short rest (i.e he starts Game 3 and then pitches again in Game 6), then presumably Sabathia would start Game Seven, leaving Kuroda having made just one start in the series. That would be something of a nightmare scenario for the Yankees to face strategically in the ALCS, and you really just can’t let it happen. To that end, I’d let Kuroda start Game Two, but I would probably consider keeping him on a pitch/innings count and really using the bullpen if it were my call. The relievers got yesterday off thanks to Sabathia’s complete game, and they’ll get another off day on Monday for travel to Detroit, so there’s no reason why Joe Girardi can’t plan on throwing the kitchen sink at the Tigers on Sunday if he wants to limit Kuroda to 85-90 pitches, five innings, or something like that. This would also set Kuroda up to get an extra day of rest before pitching Game Six thanks to the two travel days.
After that, Girardi will be faced with another tough choice between starting Phil Hughes or Sabathia on short rest in Game Three (with the other starting Game Four), but that’s not quite as important of a decision. Even if Girardi opts to give Sabathia one extra day to recover from his outing Friday, he’d be able to come back to start a Game Seven on short rest with everyone, including Hughes, available in relief, which would hardly be a disaster scenario. Only getting one start from Kuroda though. You can’t let that happen, just because your second best starter has never had to make a start on short rest before. Time to put your big boy pants on and all of that.
The Orioles pushed the Yankees literally as far as they could in 2012, but when all was said and done the Yankees managed to fend them off all the way through the fifth and final game of the ALDS. Their reward? A rematch of their 2011 ALDS series with the Detroit Tigers, with a trip to the World Series hanging in the balance. It took six months and about three dozen remarkable twists and turns along the way, but we finally ended up with the ALCS teams I thought we’d have back on April 1st. This game is funny like that, huh? Thanks to the lack of an off day between the two series we don’t have a lot of time to break down the two teams against one another, but let’s take some time to preview the series as a whole anyway, shall we?
What they’ve done:
If you were to profile these two teams over the season, they’d come away looking very, very, different. The Yankees, ravaged by injuries most of the season, nonetheless spent the year’s final three months in first place in a division that produced three 90 game winners and two ALDS participants, while the Tigers, much heralded after bringing Prince Fielder to town over the winter, were stuck in second place in the game’s worst division as late as September 24th. Even their ALDS performances were fairly different, even though both teams won in five games behind complete games from their respective aces. The Yankees played the Orioles in a see-saw battle from beginning to end, while the Tigers built up a 2-0 lead over the A’s, only to see Oakland rally to force a fifth game. Those two losses included blowing a ninth inning lead in Game Four.
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