Results tagged ‘ Max Scherzer ’
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.
TIGERS 8, YANKEES 3
In adventure tales you can usually bank on a heroic prince coming to the rescue just when he is needed. That pretty much sums up what happened for the Tigers in their 2013 home opener at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday.
Prince Fielder blasted a pair of home runs - a three-run shot in the fifth that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and a mammoth two-run blast in the seventh that put the game away - as Detroit picked up right where they left off in the American League Championship Series by drubbing New York in front of a paid crowd of 45,051.
Despite the fact that Tigers right-hander Doug Fister (1-0) was touched for three runs in the top of the fifth, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Kevin Youkilis that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, he was rescued by Fielder’s bat to get credit for the victory.
Fister gave up three runs on six hits, two walks, hit two batters and struck out two in five innings. Left-hander Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings of relief to earn a save.
Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs on five hits and two walks and struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings. But the bullpen did him no favors because Boone Logan gave up Fielder’s home run in the fifth and Shawn Kelley was tagged by his home run in the seventh.
The Yankees’ early-season record is now 1-3. The Tigers are 2-2.
- Youkilis blasted his first home run as a Yankee in the fifth inning after Fister had given up a one-out single to Robinson Cano that advanced Bret Gardner to third. While pitching to Youkilis, Fister uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to score and the Yankees halved the Tigers’ lead to 2-1. Then Youkilis connected on 3-1 fastball and he deposited the ball into the Tiger bullpen in left-center to give the Yankees a short-lived 3-2 lead.
- David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and need only needed four pitches to record three outs. He was the only Yankee hurler on the day who did not give up a hit or a run.
- Nova shocked reporters after the game by saying he did not believe he pitched that poorly. Though he did keep the team in the game, Nova was hardly effective. He was in three-ball counts to nine of the 21 batters he faced and threw 96 pitches with only 53 being strikes (55 percent). Nova will be on a short leash if he continues to struggle like this.
- Logan was brought in to the game specifically to face Fielder with two on and two out in the fifth and Fielder swatted his second pitch just over the wall in right to allow the Tigers to reclaim the lead. In a perfect world the Yankees would have a second left-hander because Logan is not a lefty specialist but the Yankees elected to release side-winding left-hander Clay Rapada.
- Kelley, 29, not only gave up the two-run blast by Fielder that still might be orbiting Earth, but he also gave up a long solo blast to Alex Avila in the sixth. Kelley was selected by the Yankees over veteran David Aardsma because he is capable of pitching multiple innings. I guess the Yankees’ brain trust did not realize he also is capable of surrendering multiple homers in multiple innings.
The Yankees injury list grew on Friday when Eduardo Nunez was forced to leave the game in the fourth inning after being struck by a pitch from Fister. Nunez thought that he might have a broken his right arm but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep and he is listed as day-to-day. Jayson Nix took over for Nunez at shortstop and was 0-for-2.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series in the Motor City on Saturday.
Originally, the Yankees were scheduled to start David Phelps. But the Yankees decided they will activate right-hander Phil Hughes from the 15-day disabled list and he will make the start instead. Hughes was sidelined during all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
The Tigers will send right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound. Scherzer was 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 2012. he is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 6, TIGERS 2
When your team’s starting pitching is ineffective and its bullpen is being taxed by having to pitch too many innings, the ace of your staff must step up and deliver a victory and go most of the way.
CC Sabathia did just that on Sunday for the Yankees.
Sabathia (3-0) pitched eight innings of two-run baseball and his offense backed him with home runs from Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones as New York took the weekend series against Detroit with a victory at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Sabathia limited the Tigers to just four hits and two walks while he struck out eight en route to his third consecutive victory.
His mound opponent, Max Scherzer (1-3), spent most of his outing dodging disaster while he was doling out hits and walks like candy to children. Scherzer gave up seven hits and a career-high seven walks in 4 2/3 innings but somehow only gave up three earned runs.
The Yankees loaded the bases on Scherzer in the second inning when Derek Jeter reached first safely on an infield single with two outs. Curtis Granderson got credit for an RBI when Scherzer walked him on a 3-2 pitch. The Yankees tacked on another run when Alex Rodriguez rolled an infield single that Miguel Cabrera was unable to field cleanly.
Prince Fielder halved the Yankees lead in the fourth with his third home run of the season, a solo blast into the second deck in right-field.
The Yankees got that run back in the fourth on Granderson’s eighth home run of the season and his fifth in his last nine games. Tigers center-fielder Austin Jackson nearly leaped over the wall and brought it back in what would have a been a spectacular catch. However, he was unable to keep the ball in his glove as his left arm hit the fence which separates the stands from the Yankees’ bullpen.
The Tigers drew to within a run in the sixth on a Brennan Boesch single with one out and Cabrera followed with an RBI double off the wall in center-field.
Sabathia was forced to pitch with the slimmest of leads despite the fact the Yankees had put 17 runners on base over the first six innings without getting that one big hit that could have broken the game open.
They did, however, break through in the seventh inning off rookie reliever Luke Putkonen, who was making his major-league debut.
Backup catcher and No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart started it with a leadoff single. Jeter drew another walk and Granderson just missed a second home run to center but both Stewart and Jeter were able to advance a base. Stewart then scored when Cabrera chose to throw home on a bouncer off the bat of Rodriguez and Stewart slid safely under the tag of Gerald Laird.
Robinson Cano added a sacrifice fly to score Jeter and the Yankees finally provided a three-run cushion for Sabathia.
Jones hit his third home run of the season in the eighth off reliever Collin Balester to give the Yankees their final margin.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 12-9. The Tigers fell to 11-11.
- Sabathia was at his best on Sunday, hitting his spots with his fastball and striking out batters with his slider. With his eight strikeouts on Sunday, Sabathia is now leading the American League in that category with 38. He also lowered his ERA to 4.68. More importantly, a weary bullpen got some rest. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth to close it out but pitchers like David Phelps, Clay Rapada and Boone Logan got some much needed rest.
- Granderson’s home run turned out to be the deciding run of the game and it overcame a situation where the Yankees were a horrible 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Granderson leads in the team in home runs and he is second to Nick Swisher in RBIs with 16. Granderson is hitting .364 in his last nine games with five home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Rodriguez’s two RBIs gave him 1,904 for his career, which moved him past Willie Mays for ninth place on the all-time list. After a slow start with the bat this April, A-Rod has nine RBIs in his last eight games and he now has four home runs and 11 RBIs on the season.
- Cano contributed two hits and an RBI but he still has been largely MIA this season with one home run, four RBis and a .264 average.
- Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a particular problem for the Yankees this season. It was in this game. Cano grounded out weakly to first base with two on and one out in the first and he struck out swinging with the bases loaded and two out in the second. The Yankees left the bases loaded three times in the game and stranded 15 runners overall. This has to change.
- Mark Teixeira must have finally realized it was April. After his two-homer, six-RBI game against the Red Sox on April 20, Tex has fallen into a 2-for-24 (.083) tailspin. He was 0-for-5 on Sunday and he was 0-for-12 in the weekend series against the Tigers. He is now hitting .223. But, cheer up, Mark! The month of May begins on Tuesday and you can start hitting then like you always do.
Swisher left the game for a pinch-runner (Jones) in the third inning with a mild strain of his left hamstring and he is expected to miss the next few games, at least. However, the Yankees do not believe Swisher will need to go on the disabled list at this time. He is listed as day-to-day for now. . . . As expected, the Yankees have announced that struggling right-hander Freddy Garcia will pitch out of the bullpen and Phelps has been elevated to the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Garcia, 35, is 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in his four starts and he was chased after giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday. Phelps, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.57 ERA in six appearances covering 17 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. The rookie right-hander figures to make his first major-league start on Thursday in Kansas City against the Royals. . . . The Yankees made a roster move on Sunday to bolster their overtaxed bullpen by calling up rookie right-hander D.J. Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and sending right-hander Cody Eppley to Scranton.
The Yankees open a three-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-3, 4.38 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 innings to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. However, he lost in a pitcher’s duel against fellow countryman Yu Darvish. Kuroda has never faced the Orioles in his career.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel (3-0, 1.73 ERA). Hammel is coming off an outing in which he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays over seven innings en route to a 3-0 victory. He is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
TIGERS 7, YANKEES 5
For the second straight start veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia got knocked out in the second inning and a last-ditch ninth-inning rally fell just short as Detroit defeated New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Garcia was shelled for six runs on five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, the big blows were a three-run home run by Andy Dirks in the first inning and a two-run double by Miguel Cabrera in the second that chased him from the game. Garcia is now 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (1-0) pitched six innings, giving up only one run on Nick Swisher’s home run the bottom of the first inning, to pick up his first major-league victory.
The Yankees, meanwhile, made it interesting in the late innings when Curtis Granderson homered off former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke in the seventh inning and they added three runs in the ninth inning off Tigers closer and resident hot dog Jose Valverde.
Swisher began the inning with his second home of the game and his sixth of the season. Alex Rodriguez then drew a one-out walk. Granderson later added a two-out single to score Rodriguez.
Pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez slapped an RBI double down the left-field line to score Granderson and draw the Yankees to within two runs and brought the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.
Chavez slapped a high drive down the right-field line that was caught just at the warning track by right-fielder Don Kelly to end the rally and allow Valverde to get his heart out of his throat. Instead of his usual victory dance after the last out, the clown just walked off the mound sporting an embarrassing 5.59 ERA.
The loss dropped the Yankees’ season ledger to 11-9. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak and are 11-10.
- Swisher’s two home runs came from each side of the plate and he extended his American League-leading total of RBis to 23. Because Swisher’s contract expires at the end of the season, he is hoping a good season will convince the Yankees to offer him a long-term deal to stay. Considering in his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting .350 with four home runs and 12 RBIs it might be a good idea to do it before the season ends.
- Granderson’s solo home run in the seventh gave him seven on the season. In his last eight games, Granderson is hitting .367 with four home runs and eight RBIs. His only negative this season is his 24 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.
- Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Cabrera in the eighth inning and that was the only run the bullpen allowed after Garcia left in the second inning. Clay Rapada, David Phelps and Eppley combined to give up just the one run on two hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings. Phelps, who seems to be assured of a start soon, faced the minimum nine batters in his three innings of work, striking out two.
- Garcia has started his last game for some time and it may be his last start for the Yankees, period. Manager Joe Girardi said Garcia may land on the disabled list so the Yankees can determine why his pitches have dropped so much in velocity from last season. Girardi may have some announcement about it on Sunday.
- Robinson Cano has been a major disappointment all season. He was 0-for-4 on Saturday and he saw only 11 pitches in those at-bats. He lined out sharply in the first, struck out looking on three pitches in the fourth and flied out weakly in the sixth and ninth innings. Cano is hitting .253 with just one home run and three RBIs batting third or fourth for the Yankees behind a red-hot Derek Jeter. Something is not adding up here.
- The Yankees managed only Swisher’s home run, a Rodriguez single and two walks off Smyly in his fourth major-league start. This has ben a pattern with the Yankees when they face a pitcher for the first time. They take way too much time trying to figure out how to approach them and end up on the losing end.
Andy Pettitte’s minor-league start scheduled for Monday has been shifted from the cold climate of Portland, ME., to the warmer weather of Tampa, FL. Pettitte, 39, will start for Class-A Tampa on Monday and he expected to throw about 90 to 95 pitches. The veteran left-hander came out of retirement in the spring and hopes to rejoin the Yankees in mid-May.
The Yankees will try to win the three-game weekend home series with the Tigers on Sunday.
CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia has won his last two starts and he is coming off an 8-inning outing in which he gave up four runs against the Rangers on Monday. Sabathia is 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA lifetime against the Tigers.
Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24 ERA) will oppose Sabathia. Scherzer has struggled in all of his four starts this season. His 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, TIGERS 2 (10 INNINGS)
After blowing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, New York rallied behind a two-run double by Dewayne Wise with the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning to defeat Detroit on Saturday in a Grapefruit League game played at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
D.J. Mitchell (2-0) was credited with the victory despite the fact he gave up a leadoff home run to Audy Ciriaco and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Danny Worth in the ninth that forced the extra frame. Lefty reliever Cesar Cabral pitched a perfect tenth inning to get credit for a save.
Veteran Tigers lefty Danny Schlereth (1-1) was the losing pitcher.
The Yankees’ rally began when Justin Maxwell reached first in a fielding error by Worth. Bill Hall then worked a walk and Maxwell and Hall then successfully executed a double steal.
Austin Krum flied out to shallow left and Schlereth intentionally walked Colin Curtis to pitch to Wise. But Wise foiled the strategy by lacing a double to right-field that scored Maxwell and Hall with what proved to be the winning runs.
Mitchell’s inability to keep the Tigers off the board spoiled two significant story lines for the Yankees.
The first big news for the Yankees was that Freddy Garcia was making his first start since he bruised his right hand trying to field Edwin Encarnacion’s hard-hit grounder on March 14 in a game against Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL. Garcia also was trying to reinsert himself into the battle for a rotation spot that is crowded with four starters vying for two spots.
Garcia was up to challenge also. He allowed only one hit and walked two while striking out four in 4 1/3 shutout innings against Tigers. Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer matched zeros with Garcia until the seventh inning, which was the point of the second big development for the Yankees.
With two out in the seventh, Mark Teixeira slapped a single into center and Raul Ibanez, who was a woeful 2-for-39 (.051) as he stood at the plate, launched a two-run home run to the deepest part of the ballpark in center-field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
With the victory, the Yankees have stretched their spring hot streak to 8-1 with one tie in their last 10 games. Their overall record stands at 13-9. The Tigers, who had only lost three games this spring, are now 14-4.
- It is no secret that Garcia, 35, is facing long odds at making the rotation despite his 12-8 record and 3.62 ERA in 2011. But Garcia stepped up and pitched excellent baseball. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.92 and manager Joe Girardi was very pleased with what he saw. But with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte assured rotation spots when Pettitte is activated in May, Garcia is battling uphill against Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes for the other two spots.
- It remains to be seen if Ibanez’s two-run home run gets him going this spring. Yankee fans and the media have been focusing on Ibanez’s struggles as his average continued to dip lower. Ibanez, 39, is assured that he will be the left-handed designated hitter because he signed a $4.5 million contract just before camp opened.
- Wise, 33, came up with a clutch hit just when the Yankees needed it. Wise has no shot at making the Yankees’ 25-man roster this spring but you have to give him credit for hitting .444 with six RBIs and three stolen bases. He also has played the excellent defense for which he is best known.
- Mitchell’s failure to close the deal in the ninth was an aberration from his fine work this spring. He entered the game with a 0.90 ERA. The 24-year-old former Clemson right-hander will begin the season at Triple-A Empire State but he could end up with the Yankees in the future as starter or reliever because of his ability to induce ground-ball outs.
- Yankee hitters have been swinging at air the past two days. On Friday they fanned 12 times in Clearwater, FL against the Phillies and Scherzer and the Tigers struck out another dozen on Saturday. The last time the Yankees hit double-digit strikeouts this spring was against the Red Sox on March 13 at George M. Steinbrenner Field when they fanned 13 times.
- Chris Dickerson has been a major disappointment this spring. He started in center on Saturday and was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. He is hitting .200 so far. Dickerson was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Eric Chavez and he is out of options. So the Yankees likely will release him at the end of camp.
This report was delayed by technical difficulties.
ALDS – GAME 5 PREVIEW
I don’t pretend to know everything about baseball but when it comes down to a crucial Game 5, I would much rather have a pitcher going who has not lost a game since June 3.
That is what the New York Yankees having going for them in their showdown with the Detroit Tigers at Yankees Stadium on Thursday night.
Ivan Nova, 24, was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA this season and he also won Game 1 of this series 9-3 with 6 1/3 innings of solid relief of CC Sabathia. His last loss came against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, CA on June 3. His last loss at Yankee Stadium came on May 12 to the Kansas City Royals.
Another thing in Nova’s favor is that he comes into the game without showing any sign of nerves. Nova also showed the Yankees something last season in his first major-league start last August.
In a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Nova surrendered a home run to Jose Bautista in the first inning. When Bautista came up for his second at-bat, Nova decked him with a fastball up and in. Bautista took exception and Nova challenged him to come out to the mound to do something about it.
The Yankees knew then they had a pitcher who was relaxed on the big stage and who also had a competitive nature.
Nova was very disappointed when the Yankees decided to send him to the minors when Phil Hughes returned from the disabled list in July. Nova, after all, was 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA. But the Yankees rotation was full of productive veterans like Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett. Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild just told him to go down to Triple-A, work his slider and force the Yankees to keep him on the roster when he returned.
Nova did all that and then some.
He returned to the Yankees on July 30 and won the second game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium and he did not lose in any of his last 10 starts. He was 8-0 with a 3.30 ERA.
The numbers merely reflected what Girardi and Rothschild could see: Nova was a far better pitcher then he was before. The biggest difference was his slider. Instead of just spinning up to the plate it was dropping sharply. Hitters were getting fooled and Nova finally had a pitch that could keep hitters off his 94-mile-per-hour fastball.
Here is a couple more facts that might sober Tiger fans. Nova, according to Girardi, did not have his best stuff on Saturday when he shut out the Tigers for 6 1/3 innings. (Luis Ayala allowed two of Nova’s runners to score after Nova was removed.) Nova has had an uncanny knack of being able to adjust when he does not have a his best stuff. That is very unusual for a rookie.
In addition, Nova over the span of his brief career had never surrendered a lead he has been given as a starter. How many pitchers can make that claim?
The Tigers, meanwhile, are touting 27-year-old Doug Fister, Nova’s mound opponent.
Fister was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA with the Seattle Mariners when he was acquired at the trade deadline by the Tigers. In the Motor City he has racked up an impressive 8-1 record with a 1.97 ERA, easily one of the best trades made this season.
However, before Fister went on that 8-1 streak, his last start was against the Yankees on July 26 in Yankee Stadium and he lost that game. His next appearance in the Bronx was on Saturday in relief of Justin Verlander in Game 1. He lost that game also.
The most telling part of that start on Saturday was Fister’s meltdown the third time through the batting order.
The first nine batters Fister faced were 2-for-9 (.222) with four strikeouts. The next nine batters were 3-for-9 (.333) and scored a run. Fister then faced only six more batters and four of them reached and the Yankees scored two more runs. He was removed from the game, Al Alburquerque came in to pitch to Robinson Cano with the bases loaded and we all know what happened after that.
Another point: Much has been made of the fact that the Yankees have not hit well in the series. I am not understanding what series those pundits are watching. The Yankees have outscored the Tigers 26-14 in the series. They are hitting .272 as a team. The Tigers are hitting .188.
The Tigers won two games in this series because Verlander and Scherzer pitched well and the Tigers held on to hold off late Yankee rallies. They will need a similar effort from Fister tonight. However, even if Fister does pitch better than he did on Saturday, the Tigers are going to have to wake up their bats against Nova.
I am not sure that is going to happen.
Another point lost on Tuesday night amid the parade of seven hits the Yankees collected in the eighth inning against the Tigers were that two of them came from Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was hitless in his first 12 at-bats with three walks and a sacrifice fly to deep center on Tuesday just before he put up those two hits.
If the Yankees were hitting well and scoring runs without Rodriguez contributing much, how will they do if he finds his power stroke tonight?
If Fister thinks he can feast off the bottom of the Yankees’ batting order to get outs, he better think again. No. 9 hitter Brett Gardner is 5-for-13 (.385) with five RBIs. In contrast, Tiger MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera is hitting .250 with a home run and three RBIs. However, all of those hits and RBIs came in Game 2. He has been held hitless in the other three contests.
The Yankee crowd also will play a big part, too. There will likely be a record crowd on hand tonight and their noise and energy will very much impact the game. Yankees fans are so smart they know when not to interfere with a ball in play as they did in Game 1 on Robinson Cano’s double. They also can impact an umpire and how a game is called.
There is a reason the Yankees fought through a 162-game schedule and it was to get home-field advantage. This is it.
The Bronx will be rocking and loud tonight and I love the Yankees’ chances to advance to the American League Championship Series. They seem to have the Tiger by the tail.
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.
- Jorge Posada is settling in to the DH spot nicely as he contributed a pair of two-run home runs, one in the second inning and another in the fifth. Both of the shots came off Scherzer.
- Mark Teixeira is doing a wonderful job of pretending it is May. He hit his third home run in as many games, a solo shot off Scherzer in the third inning.
- Nick Swisher had a perfect afternoon. He was 3-for-3 with a double, two singles, two walks and he scored two runs and drove in another.
- Robinson Cano blasted his first home run of the young season, a solo shot two batters after Teixeira’s home run in the third. It also came off Scherzer.
- Hughes once again had problems similar to the second half of last season because he could not put away the Tigers after getting two strikes on them. Twelve Tiger batters had two strikes on them and Hughes fanned only one. He threw 90 pitches in just four innings and struggled to get up 90 miles per hour on his fastball. Meanwhile, Cabrera pounded him for a pair of two-run home runs in his first two at-bats.
- Bartolo Colon gave up only four runs all spring. In four innings on relief of Hughes, he gave up four runs on six hits and a walk. He did strike out five batters.
- Brett Gardner had a day he would like to forget In five plate appearances he failed to get a ball out of the infield and struck out three times form the leadoff spot.
- Curtis Granderson also was held in check. He was 0-for-4 and struck out twice.