Today’s Playoff trivia answer: Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Wilson Betemit, and Brad Penny. Question below.
Justin Verlander once again got off to a shaky start, but this time there was no rain, and he found a groove in which he may as well have been throwing a no-hitter, at one point striking out 4 consecutive Yankee hitters, 3 of them on called strikes.
Then in the 7th inning, he lost the strike zone. You could see it on his face; he was fidgety, the calm Verlander gaze was gone (an Avila trip to the mound probably would have been in order here). He still had the power though: he walked Posada on pitches of 100, 100, 100, 101, and 100. I doubt if a starting pitcher has ever thrown 5 consecutive 100+ pitches in the postseason before (I haven’t been able to track this down for certain).
But he pulled it together once again, struck out Derek Jeter, breezed through the 8th, and with the help of Delmon Young put the Yankees once again on the verge of first-round Defeat in the D.
And A-Rod is still 0-for-the-series, and a career postseason 1-for-27 against Detroit. Must be the strike zone. Yeah, that’s it.
And speaking of 2006 deja vu, the Cardinals squeaked into the postseason, and now look like they have a shot at upsetting the Phillies…I’m just saying…
If there is any Yankee on the NY hot seat right now more than A-Rod, it is tonight’s starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. Burnett, who has been called “inconsistent” so much this season it might as well be his middle name, muddled through the season at 11-11, 5.15. The Yankees were hoping to get through the series without having to use him, but the rainout changed that.
He has been consistently wild, leading MLB with 25 wild pitches.
His record against Detroit doesn’t inspire confidence either: 2-2, 7.17. His career postseason mark is 1-2, 5.67.
One oddity about Burnett: the RH Burnett fares better against LHB (.256 BA against) than he does RHB (.264 BA against). Jim Leyland is not to be fooled, however: he has loaded the lineup with lefties.
Taking the mound for Detroit is Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75), who’s one postseason appearance was his game 163 against the Twins, where he struck out 8 in 5 2/3 innings. He has hardly been the picture of consistency himself: His ERAs by month: 4.25, 3.52, 6.97, 3.06, 6.82, 3.55. So the question is, is October a new month, or does it count as part of September?
As good as Kid Rick’s September was, there is one cause for concern for tonight: he has been considerably better against RHB (.249 BA against) than against LHB (.321 BA against, yikes…Granderson, Cano, and Texeira must be giddy…).
Porcello is the Tiger starter least likely to make it through the 7th inning, so the bullpen will be key today: Alburquerque will need to shake off the grand slam from Game 1, Benoit will need to keep doing what he has been doing, and Phil Coke will likely need to get a key out or two against his former teammates. Leyland says that Valverde, who has closed the last 2 games, should be available again tonight.
Whoever wins this series will be facing the Texas Rangers. (If it’s the Tigers, our own Kevin In Dallas should have some interesting perspective). The prospect of a Milwaukee-St. Louis / Detroit-Texas final 4 should have the TV execs hitting the Captain Morgan (you would think, by the way, that they would’ve come up with a few new commercials if they were going to sponsor the playoffs).
Just for fun: Jim Leyland is now 29-23 (.558) career in the postseason, 10-6 (.625) with Detroit.
And who looks these things up? Justin Verlander and Jose Valverde are the only starter-closer combo with the same initials to combine for a postseason win-save other than Ron Guidry and Rich Gossage, who did it in 1978. Hmm, so suddenly he isn’t “Goose” anymore, OK.
Today’s Playoff trivia question: Which Tigers have a career postseason batting average of .300 or above?
Player of the Pre-Game: Don Kelly and his .500 career postseason BA (1.000 OPS) is unleashed in the 6 spot to protect Cabby and V-Mart with Donkey power.
Today’s Leyland-is-a-Much-Maligned-Genius Lineup: