Game 2012 Playoffs.8: Yankees at Tigers

2 more to the WS, 6 more to a championship.

How’s everyone doing out there? Feeling pretty good?

I sure am. I don’t think I can get enough of the MLB Network these days, though Dan Pleasac breaking down Paws’ YMCA dance did seem like they had run out of things to discuss.

Game 3 tonight in the D, Phil Hughes v. Justin Verlander. My prediction is 5-2 Tigers. But I do have a few concerns.

Concern #1) The lineup shakeup. Rodriguez and Swisher have been very easy outs – a combined 3-15 with 0 XBH. Gardner, especially at the top of the lineup, could be the spark the Yankees need. Remember, he was 7-17 in last year’s ALDS.

Concern #2) The Yankees are the Yankees. They won an AL best 95 games this year, and their 804 runs scored were 2nd in the Majors (Texas 808). That’s 98 more runs than the Tigers, or .6 more per game. Cano will get a hit at some point in time.

Concern #3) Leyland goes with his gut. Hughes’ reverse splits are ridiculous (.211 BAA, 2.32 ERA v Lefties, .308 BAA, 6.54 ERA v Righties), yet Leyland stacks the lineup with lefties. Who knows what else he may do tonight.

Concern #4) It can’t be this easy, can it? I mean, JV goes to 3-0, the Tigers up are 3-0, with 2 games left at home?

But here’s why we do win:

1) Phil Hughes isn’t that good. After a rough April and May, Phil Hughes showed glimpses of the front line starter the Yankees thought he could be. He went 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in June, and 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA in July with a combined 1.06 WHIP and 58 Ks in 68 IPs against only 16 walks. But he regressed a bit in August as his BAA went up and Ks went down, and then blew up in September with a 5.19 ERA. For the season he was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He had a great outing against Baltimore last week, allowing only 1 ER in 6 2/3 in a game 4 no-decision (Os won in 13). He faced the Tigers twice this year, pitching a complete game gem on June 3 when he allowed only 1 ER and struck out 8, and then was pounded for 8 hits and 4 ER in 4 1/3 on August 7th. Cabrera is 9-22 with 4 HRs off of Hughes, and Jhonny Defender is 10-20

2) The Tigers will hit again. Other than Jhonny (.852), no one has a playoff OPS higher than .732.  This won’t last.

3) Justin Verlander. JV is 1-0 with a 5.02 ERA against the Yankees with 17 Ks over 14.1 IP in 3 career post-season starts, but I expect him to be much better tonight. He struck out 11 in each of his first 2 playoff starts, and his .75 WHIP is topped only by his .56 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .130.

4) I like our bullpen. Fangraphs posted a long piece yesterday which states that the Tigers’ pen really isn’t that bad, and concluded that it is likely mismanaged. The author took a particular liking to Al Al. Get in line. Phil Coke was phenomenal on Sunday night, allowing only 1 hit and throwing a ridiculous 23/28 strikes over 2 innings in saving game 2. Coke joins Guillermo Hernandez (you may know him as Willie) as the only pitchers in Tigers post-season history to register as 2+ inning save. The entire pen should be well rested tonight, though I’d be surprised to see Coke go more than 1 or 2 batters. (Note that Leyland hasn’t said whether Valverde will be used in a save situation tonight.)

Remember, as good as we feel about JV tonight, if the Yankees can eek out a win, they’ve got CC Sabathia going tomorrow, and they might be feeling that 2-2 is right around the corner. So let’s not take anything for granted.

A few notes:

– ARod and Swisher are out, Chavez and Gardner are in. This is Gardner’s 1st start since April 17th. Rodriguez was 4-6 off of JV this year, but on a 0-18 streak against righties.

– JL has made the post-season 7 times in 21 years of frustrating fans.

– Marcelo Carreno is the PTBNL in the Jeff Baker trade from August 5th.

WS tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. They are only good if the Tigers win 2 more games.

Tonight’s 3-0 Lineup:

1. Jackson, CF
2. Berry, LF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, DH
6. Dirks, RF
7. Peralta, SS
8. Avila, C
9. Infante, 2B