(Note: tonight is a combined Coleman/Kevin In Dallas post, kind of like the Verlander/Fister Game 1 start–hopefully with better results).
On March 31st, Curtis Granderson hit an insurance home run in the bottom of the 7th off of Phil Coke (who was brought in to just face Granderson), while Austin Jackson went 1-4 and Alex Avila went 0-4 in a 6-3 Tigers loss. JV took a no decision. After 166 games in 189 days, we’re right back where we started.
JV (most likely) will not factor into the decision tonight, but Doug Fister will in a rematch against Game 1 Part 2 opponent Ivan Nova, who just 3 months ago was demoted to the minor leagues, while Fister suffered on last-place Seattle.
Fister gave up 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings, but didn’t pitch as badly as that sounds. He started off well, putting the Yankees behind consistently in the count–the first time through the order, 6 of 9 Yankees were caught looking at first pitch strikes. Expect the Yankee hitters to take a more aggressive approach tonight.
(Speaking of aggressive approaches: Delmon Young swung at 11 first pitches in his first 13 ALDS plate appearances).
Nova pitched well, allowing 2 ER over 6 and then gave way to the Yankees bullpen. The Tigers will have to hit him harder tonight, or at least make contact–Cabrera, Martinez, Jackson, and Raburn all had swinging strike 3s against Nova. But Nova will not be so nova to the Tiger hitters the 2nd time through. And perhaps tonight’s earlier (8:07) start will throw him off.
It would help for the Tigers to capitalize early. Tuesday’s first inning Granderson grab was the 2nd consecutive game the Tigers failed to take advantage of an early bases-loaded situation. In fact, the 14 times in the regular season that the Tigers had the bases loaded with less than 2 outs in the first or second inning, they ended up with a .091 BA and .182 OPS.
It would also help for Austin Jackson to get on base, and maybe Don Kelly in the 2nd spot will provide a spark, or at least avoid the GIDP or failed sacrifice problem that has hurt Detroit.
(Leyland has indicated a Kelly to RF/Inge to 3B defensive shift is likely later in the game).
If the Tigers do strike early, Yankee manager Joe Girardi has indicated that he is willing to use Rivera for 2 innings, and will have CC Sabatia available in the bullpen. No Verlander for Leyland though, and probably no Alburquerque either. Leyland is set to go with Fister, Coke, Benoit, and Valverde. If Fister doesn’t make it far enough into the game, Max Scherzer will be the guy.
Tuesday night’s debacle was the most watched LDS game since 2007. The Tigers have one more chance to show the baseball-watching world what they are really made of. As Brandon Inge said, “it’s hard to beat us 2 games in a row.”
Stat to remember – Game 3 Winners (Tigers) have won 83% of the last 23 LDS. Time to pick a winner. Have fun everybody. Let’s play ball!
Player of the Pre-Game: Alex Avila
Has Iron-Man Alex finally worn down? Avila has yet to have a hit in the postseason, and has in fact struck out 6 times in 15 plate appearances, a rate almost twice as high as his regular season rate. Batting between Cabrera-Martinez-Ordonez and the hot Peralta, Avila could swing the course of the game with a timely hit.
Today’s Hmm-Let’s-Try-This Lineup: