ALCS, Tigers 1, Yankees 0.
Well, that was certainly exhausting, and it seems so soon to pick it up and do it all over again. And I’m just speaking of the fans; imagine how draining that was for the participants.
Well, the big topic of last night’s game among many, is the potato in the room, which can no longer be ignored. Despite all of the “who could have predicted this” commentary last night on the TV broadcast, those of us who have been following the Tigers could have, and did predict that Valverde in the 9th was trouble.
In the past, Leyland has always supported his closer, closed ranks, and said, hey this is our guy. When an exhausted and bleary-eyed Leyland said in the post-game interview that he needs to talk to his staff before he would comment on the closer situation, you knew this time was different.
Apparently the Tigers are going to go with a bullpen by committee approach for now. Although he still refers to Valverde as his closer. Although he won’t be closing today. In other words, we’ll have to watch and see. Valverde isn’t going away just yet (“Jose Valverde is sitll a huge part of this team”), but it is unclear what his role will be from here on out.
The Valverde implosion was so dramatic that is easy to forget that once again Joaquin Benoit was hit and hit hard (Austin Jackson with the save!), and it would not be hard to imagine Leyland going to Benoit in the 9th inning, so don’t put away the antacids just yet (although I am predicting Alburquerque for today).
And don’t let the 9th inning meltdown distract from what was one more brilliant starting performance by Detroit, and a good showing by most of the bullpen. In fact Tiger pitching held the Yankees scoreless for 11 total innings yesterday. Doug Fister fought through a string of bases-loaded situations, fought off a line on his pitching wrist, and came up with just enough strikeouts to blank the Yankees over 6 1/3 hard-fought, gutsy innings. (In fact when Fister escaped three bases-loaded jams he became the first to do that to the Yankees in their 375-game postseason history, in case you’re keeping track).
Benoit was scary, but Phil Coke may have had his best outing of the season, Octavio Dotel was solid after the Valverde meltdown (and may be the closer-in-waiting), and young Drew Smyly showed that he was up to the big stage, calmly putting down the Yankee lefties. So all-in-all, the Tiger pitching, as predicted, has been the key to Tiger success in this series.
Today they hand the ball to Anibal, who has a short and inglorious history facing the Yankees: 7 runs over 7-plus innings in a 12-8 loss on Aug. 8.
From the Yankee perspective of course, the Tiger bullpen implosion pales in comparison with losing Derek Jeter, whose season is finished after fracturing his ankle fielding a Peralta gounder. Jeter will be replaced by Jayson Nix, who hit .243 with 4 HRs and a .690 OPS. What may be irreplacable is Jeter’s leadership, and expect even more attention to focus on Alex Rodriguez in the wake of Jeter’s loss.
Stat of the Day: The Tigers are 1-0 this postseason when billfer comments on DTW.
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has faced Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda 9 times, with 2 HRs and an OPS of 1.667.
Today’s Stealing-Home-Field-Advantage Lineup: