Previewing Game 5 of the ALDS between Yankees and Tigers
For only the second time in the wild card era, and the first time since 2001, there will by three Game 5s in the Division Series. The first comes Thursday night in the Bronx, where the Yankees will play in their first double-elimination game since losing Game 5 of the ALDS to the Angles in 2005, and the Tigers will play their first since losing Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS to the A's.
• In recent days I've been citing the fact that in best-of-five series that started out tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has claimed 29 of 37 series (including this year's Rays-Rangers ALDS). However, in the 16 of those series to go to a fifth game, the winner of Game 3 has lost as often as it has won, going 8-8. Which means the Yankees tonight and Cardinals tomorrow are out from under the thumb of history.
• There is no clear advantage gleaned from playing double-elimination games at home. Also, when a pitching matchup reoccurs from earlier in the series, as with tonight's Ivan Nova-Doug Fister rematch of the resumed Game 1, there's no trend as to whether or not the result will be the same as the first time those pitchers faced off. Both of those things are good news for Tigers fans and bad news for Yankee fans, as the Yankees are both home and won Game 1's Nova-Fister matchup.
• In the resumed Game 1 on Saturday, Nova was sharp, turning in four 1-2-3 innings and not allowing a run to score on his watch. The two runs he was charged with in his 6 1/3 innings of work both scored after he was removed from the game. He did, however, walk four men and needed a perfect relay from centerfield to strike down a run at the plate in the fifth, the only inning prior to his last that he let the Tigers rally.
• Fister also required an out at home plate to keep his first inning of work scoreless, but, starting with that play, he retired 11 men in a row, five by strikeout. He then allowed seven of the Yankees' next 10 hitters to reach before getting the hook and watching his ledger increase by three runs when Al Alburquerque yielded a grand slam to Robinson Cano.
• It's worth repeating Fister's success down the stretch in the regular season: He went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 0.84 WHIP after being acquired by the Tigers from the Mariners at the deadline, walking just five men in 70 1/3 innings and posting 11.4 K/BB over that stretch. Over his finals eight games (one a three-inning relief appearance), he went 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA and struck out 8.4 men per nine innings, an impressive rate for a control pitcher with underwhelming stuff. In his last start with the Mariners, he held the Yankees to three runs over seven innings in Yankee Stadium, which was his only regular season outing against New York this year.
• Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that every pitcher on his roster will be available out of the bullpen tonight except for Tuesday's Game 4 starter A.J. Burnett. That includes CC Sabathia. However, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said that Sabathia's Game 3 opponent Justin Verlander will not be used. Girardi has also said that he will use Marino Rivera for more than three outs if necessary, though that should hardly come as a surprise given Rivera's history of multi-inning postseason appearances and complete lack of high-leverage innings thus far in this series.
• It's easy to look good when you win 10-1, as the Yankees did in Game 4, but a lot of little things went right for New York in the eighth inning of that game which could carry over to Game 5. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, all of whom had been slumping, got consecutive singles to start the top half of the inning, Rodriguez's being his first of the series but also the first of two in that inning. Heralded rookie Jesus Montero saw his first postseason action and singled in both of his at-bats (the second coming in the ninth). Deposed starter Phil Hughes also saw his first action of the series, working a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth out of the bullpen, averaging 94 miles per hour with his fastball and striking out Miguel Cabrera to finish the frame.
• Tigers catcher Alex Avila is the only regular without a hit in this series. He is 0-for-12 with two walks and six strikeouts.
• The Yankees have out-scored the Tigers 26-14 in this series and out-hit them .257/.356/.404 to .226/.319/.355. The Tigers' team ERA is almost exactly twice the Yankees' at 6.69 to 3.34. However, the Tigers have out-homered the Yankees four-to-three and have drawn just three fewer walks (15 to the Yankees' 18) while striking out fewer times (34 to 40).
• Expected to be part of a lock-down end-game for the Tigers, rookie righty Al Alburquerque has faced four batters in this series, three of whom have reached base. Brought in with the bases loaded for both of his appearances, he has allowed five of those six inherited runners to score, three on Cano's Game 1 grand slam, and two more on a balk and a single in Game 4.
• The Yankees have intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera in each of the last two games, both times with two outs and first base open. Neither time did the Tigers score following the walk, so look for the Yankees to employ that strategy again if necessary in Game 5.