Game 2011 Playoffs.9: Rangers at Tigers

Today’s playoff trivia question: Who has the MLB record for the highest single-season playoff BA and OBP (same player)?  Answer below.

What a difference a day makes.

The Tigers got where they are on their hitting as much as anything:  they had the 4th highest team OPS in the AL, behind Boston, Texas, and the Yankees.  But the guys who were doing it all year long had just not being doing it before last night.

Tiger OPS leaders regular season:

1.033 Cabrera

.895 Avila

.850 Martinez

.824 Peralta

Postseason OPS before Tuesday:

.791 Cabrera

.228 Avila

.556 Martinez

.632 Peralta

That’s 1.395 OPS points lower than the regular season, which is like replacing Cabrera and Martinez with 2 Adam Everetts.  In fact the Tiger team OPS was only .678, which is close to fielding a team of Adam Everetts (.640 career).  And it isn’t like the team was making productive outs:  they had rung up a whopping 69 strikeouts already (Texas has 38, by comparison).  And when they have put the ball in play, they have been prone to the GIDP:  they have a 1.05 ground ball to fly ratio (Texas is at .067), which has resulted in 8 GIDPs, 2 more than the other 3 playoff teams combined.

Leyland was doing what he could to adjust–the Tigers have 6 of the 7 AL posteason sacrifice bunts.  He even had Peralta sacrificing for the first time since 2009.

Last night that all changed.  Welcome back to Comerica Miguel!  Welcome back Victor, welcome Jhonny!   The Tigers had their first 3-HR postseason game since guys named Parrish and Gibson did it in 1984.

And what can you say about Doug Fister?  Even away from Arlington, this Texas lineup is nothing to sneeze at, but Fister sneezed away.

Martinez and Young, on the other hand, may want to refrain from sneezing.  V-Mart injured his oblique,  but refuses to consider the bench:  “The only way I don’t play tomorrow is if I wake up and I’m dead.”  He is alive and batting cleanup, in front of his Oblique Buddy Delmon Young, who returns to the lineup in the 5th spot.

Now it is Texas who is wondering what happened to the middle of their lineup.  The Texas 4-7 hitters were 0-15 last night, and Michael Young in particular is struggling, descending into Avila range (.111, .284 OPS).

Today it is Kid Rick’s turn to shine.  Porcello looks to even up the series against Matt Harrison, another Texas lefty.  This game is a big one for both teams, perhaps more so for Texas, with Justin Verlander waiting in the wings.  Harrison had a good season (14-9, 3.39) but gives Texas fans some reasons to be nervous.  Harrison’s career stats at Comerica:  1-3, 5.56, with opponents hitting .358 against him.  The current Tiger roster is batting .400 career against him (1.172 OPS), with Cabrera, Raburn, Inge, Avila, and Jackson all .400 or better.  Look for Raburn to have a big day.  The Fall Guy is 8-for-12 career against Harrison, with a 2.026 OPS.

So were any of our readers at the game yesterday?  Ranger fans seem to think the Tiger crowd was awfully dead for a playoff game.

Update:  it appears once again the weather is trying to rain on the Tiger parade. The tarp is on the field at Comerica.  Estimate start time moved to 5:45. 6:30.

Today’s playoff trivia answer:  Lloyd McClendon, 1992, Pirates (.727 /.750, 1.932 OPS).  So don’t try to pin any playoff slumping business on Ol’ Lloyd

Player of the Pre-Game:  Miguel Cabrera

Not only did Cabrera hit the majestic home run yesterday, but for the second consecutive game had the play of the game with his glove.  Let’s go for three.

Today’s Let’s-Get-Even Lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ryan Raburn, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Delmon Young, LF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

 

Game 2011 Playoffs.8: Rangers at Tigers

Here’s the thing about a walk-off Grand Slam.  It only counts as one win.  One win.  Same as a sacrifice fly, walk, HBP, bloop single, etc.  There’s no momentum in baseball.

In less than 9 hours, 42,000+ screaming, rabid, passionate Detroit Tigers fans are going to erupt when the Tigers charge out of the dugout and take the field.  They are going to cheer every Tiger, and boo every Ranger (well, maybe except for Ron Washington – I love watching that guy).   There’s no momentum in baseball.

I realize that everyone wants to jump on Lamont for not sending Santiago in the top of the 9th, but let’s not forget that this team won 95 games, largely on the shoulders of MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, and VMart hit a cool .394 behind him with RISP.  I 100% agree with Lamont’s decision there.  Had Santiago been thrown out at home with Miguel Cabrera in the on-deck circle, Lamont would have never been able to walk out into public in Detroit again.

I’d like to mention that the 3-2-3 double play last night turned by Cabrera was gorgeous.  He had to make the swipe tag because it happened so fast that he could not get back to the bag.  That guy is going to earn a Gold Glove next season, and win one in 2013.

If you were to simplify the game into starting pitching, bullpen, and hitting, the Rangers have the Tigers beat in the last two, but the Tigers have the upper hand in starting pitching.  And there is no reason to doubt that Fister/Porcello/Verlander can’t bring home 3 Ws in 3 games.  It’s not a foregone conclusion, but the Tigers will be favored in each of the next 3.  And if the bats can hit at home, that Rangers bullpen may start to get overworked.

The first two games have been incredible matches between two teams who are about as close as they can be, with the Rangers’ bullpen granting the Rangers the upper-hand.  But in all honesty, the Tigers are really just a few swings away from a 2-0 lead.  They have stranded 22 runners on base through two games – and have gone 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position.  A few big hits over the next few nights and this thing looks totally different.  There’s no momentum in baseball.

(I’ll update with lineups later today)

Tonight’s Delmon-less Lineup

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Ramon Santiago, 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Victor Martinez, DH
5. Don Kelly, 3B
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Alex Avila, C
8. Ryan Raburn, LF
9. Andy Dirks, RF

Game 2011 Playoffs.7: Tigers at Rangers

Note:  The Sunday game has been postponed, and will now be played (presumably) Monday at 4:19 EST, because 4:15 is just too early and 4:30 is just too darn late.

**Breaking News**  Magglio is out for the rest of the postseason.  He refractured the ankle he broke last season, when or how is unclear (he walked and was replaced by a pinch-runner his last appearance).  It turns out the ankle had been bothering him all season, and in fact he almost retired because of it midseason.

Update: It turns out that Ordonez injured the ankle in batting practice before the game, but tried to tough it out and play anyway.  Which makes me view the 1st inning of Saturday’s game differently…bases loaded, Wilson on the ropes, and up to the plate comes Maggs–with a broken ankle…GIDP.  Credit Maggs for his toughness, but there is something of the Inge-with-2-bad-knees bit in this scenario.

What is clear is that the Tigers have a major problem now.  They already went into the postseason without Boesch, and now have lost the only 2 guys in the middle of the order who have been hitting.  It is unclear who the Tigers will call up to replace him:  it certainly won’t be Timo Perez.The only other OF on the 40-man roster is Clete Thomas.

Update:  The player added to the roster to replace Magglio Ordonez is, as ouchudied has reported…Delmon Young, who less than 2 days ago was determined to be out for the series.  Call me skeptical.  (Also, a “first” to Andrew in Toronto on the Magglio news).  Young is penciled in the 3 spot in today’s lineup, but according to a Jason Beck tweet Leyland has also prepared a 2nd lineup card with Andy Dirks, just in case Young is more injured than thought or as injured as originally thought, or whatever.

***

One thing Tiger fans could count on in the regular season, was no prolonged losing streaks.  Anytime Justin Verlander pitched after a Tiger loss, the losing usually stopped right there (Verlander was 14-3 following a Tiger loss), which is one reason the Tigers haven’t lost 2 games in a row since Aug 27-28.

Verlander once again was rain-bedeviled, and once again began the game without his best stuff, having problems with the strike zone, throwing 49 pitches in 2 innings (although to be fair, if Foxtrax and my own eyes are to be believed, he threw several “balls” in the “strike zone”).

The pitching actually came through Saturday on the whole (even our 2nd-tier bullpen guys):  anytime you hold the Rangers to 3 runs in their home park you’ve done your job.

(Check out The Newberg Report for a good, detailed review of the game from a Rangers perspective).

The big question now becomes, was Verlander’s outing short enough that he will come back now for game 4 instead of 5?  Leyland’s play-it-by-the-book track record says no, but stay tuned.

At any rate this afternoon, for the 2nd consecutive postseason series, Max Scherzer will be asked to be the guy to take the mound after a Verlander start ended with a loss.  Scherzer was brilliant against the Yankees,  allowing no runs and only 6 baserunners in 6 innings.  A similar performance will be needed today to quiet the murmurings of “short series.”

The Rangers send Derek Holland to the mound, a follicle-challenged lefty (he has failed quite noticeably to produce anything in the playoff beard way).  Holland sometimes has control problems and can end up pitching behind in the count…so look for the Tigers to confuse him with first-pitch swinging.

If the Tigers are to win, chances are they will do it by scoring early and often–the Rangers bullpen is not to be messed with.

And Austin Jackson still has not put a ball in play to start off a postseason game.  His strikeout last night leaves him with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks to start the 6 playoff games.  Here’s hoping for a walk tonight.  And he did have a big double yesterday, but continues to strike out, his strikeout rate now up to 44%.  And he has begun to channel Raburn in CF.

And where have the big bats gone?

The top 5 Tigers in postseason OPS:

1.170 Young* (*out**) **(back)

.928 Ordonez* (*out)

.917 Kelly

.899 Inge

.875 Raburn

The big bats:

.806 Cabrera

.625 Martinez

.610 Peralta

.186 Avila

It makes for a great story when a Kelly or a Santiago comes up big, but that can’t be maintained over an entire series.

Player of the Pre-Game: Delmon Young*.

*OK, this was originally Ordonez, but was changed for obvious reasons.  And then, briefly, Don Kelly. Can Young really play with an oblique strain (think Gary Sheffield)? Or will he go the way of Ordonez playing on a sore ankle?

Today’s  Who’ll-Stop-The-Rain? Lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago 2B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Ryan Raburn, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

Game 2011 Playoffs.6: Tigers at Rangers

Time for round two, and what better way to start than with Justin Verlander, who will pitch games 1 and 5 of the series (and what better way to end than with Doug Fister, who will once again pitch the deciding game of the series if this one goes 7).  The experts seem to agree that Verlander is the key to the series. (We know that it’s actually Don Kelly).

Not that he needs any more motivation, but look for Verlander to have a little extra adrenaline going pitching in Texas in front of his idol Nolan Ryan.

One other key to the series will be how well the Tigers fill in for Delmon Young. Young is off the roster for the series with an obique strain, which means he will be replaced by Ryan Raburn in Left, and Raburn’s spot in the 2B rotation will be taken by Danny Worth, who was added to the ALCS active roster in place of Young (expect Worth to be in the lineup soon:  Santiago may be a bit overextended right now, as Kevin suggests).

Young’s spot in the lineup, however, will be taken by Miguel Cabrera, who will move up to the third spot in the lineup.  Perhaps the change will do him good;  other than the one opposite field home run, Cabrera had a quiet ALDS series, batting only .200 (.800 OPS).

Austin Jackson will need to start getting on base to make Cabrera’s stay in the 3-spot a useful one:  Jackson finished the ALDS hitting only .125 (.488 OPS!) and struck out 8 times (38%) which is high even for him.  Jackson has yet to put a ball in play to lead off a postseason game–he led off the 5 Yankee games with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks.

The Tigers have struggled against C.J. Wilson in general:  the current roster is a combined .203 career against him (.620 OPS), with some of the most reliable Tigers seemingly having the most trouble.  Martinez is a career 3-for-17 (.176, .508 OPS), and Jhonny Peralta a career 1-for-14 (.071, .330 OPS…yikes).  The only Tiger with a home run against Wilson is Brandon Inge.

The Tigers will also be dealing with the fatigue of a short turnaround and traveling, not to mention hangovers.  No, not those hangovers, says Ol’ Smokey.  Emotional hangovers.

There isn’t much to add to Kevin’s excellent rundown of the Rangers’ lineup, other than to add that there is a 10th player which we might mention–Rangers Ballpark.  The Rangers are a vastly different team at home than on the road:  .296 BA, .860 OPS vs .269 BA, .740 OPS (.269, .692 at Comerica).  And it isn’t just the Rangers–the Tigers love The Ballpark at Arlington even more.  (.373 BA, .990 OPS).  Unfortunately the most at-home Tiger, Brennan Boesch (.467, 1.433) is not in the lineup.  Adrian Beltre is the biggest Ranger homebody, hitting .326 (1.078) at Arlington, with 23 of his 32 HRs.

Player of the Pre-Game: Ryan Raburn.

He has been Mr. August-September his whole career, posting a ridiculous (for him) .308 BA over those 2 months.  Time to see if he can add October to his list.  Raburn is a career 2-3 against CJ Wilson.

Today’s Cabby-Gets-to-Bat-in-the-First Lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ryan Raburn, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

 

Game 2011 Playoffs.6: Tigers at Rangers

Since the joint effort with Coleman worked so well on Thursday, we’re sticking with it.  I’m going to do a Rangers preview early, and Coleman will supplement this with the game post later this afternoon.

Previewing the Rangers Lineup:

Ian Kinsler 2B – Though Kinsler hit only .255 this year, he still ended the regular season with an .832 OPS thanks to his 32 HR and 34 doubles.  He’s sure-handed and a threat on the bases.  In fact, Andrus (37) and Kinsler (30) each stole almost as many bases as the Tigers as a team (49).

Elvis Andrus SS – Andrus is an absolute joy to watch in the field.  He gets to balls you wouldn’t think he could, and makes strong accurate throws from all angles.  He’s prone, however, to mental lapses and poor decision making.  He regularly runs into outs and there’s a good chance that he’ll make a lazy throw or take the wrong angle on a ball or two during the series.  He has the ability to be an above-average hitter, but not the discipline or patience.  His .708 OPS was marginally better than AJax’s.

Josh Hamilton CF – What’s so incredible about Hamilton is his passion and effort, despite his history of injuries.  Hamilton gives 110% on everyplay, regularly sacrificing his body, whether in the field or on the base paths.

Michael Young DH – Maybe the most tested human since Job.  He moves from 2B to SS for Soriano, then from SS to 3B for Rodriguez, then from 3B to DH/1B for Beltre, demands a trade & reneges on that position in between, oh, and he hit .338 with an .854 OPS playing every infield position and DH this year.  The guy is the consummate professional.

Adrian Beltre 3B – After posting an .892 OPS with 32 homers during the year, Beltre hit 3 in 4 games against the Rays with an 1.179 OPS.  He’s an absolute stud at 3B and has Rangers fans applauding the unpopular Michael Young shuffle by Jon Daniels last off-season.

Mike Napoli C – Everyone knows about the Beltre FA signing, but this one may have been even better.  Guess who led the Rangers in OPS this season?  Yup, 1.046.  The guy has been crushing the ball over the past month (8 HR and a 1.361 OPS in September) and most around here feel that no one has been more valuable through this playoff run.  Not a great defensive catcher though.

Nelson Cruz RF – Outside of Miguel Cabrera, I don’t know anyone who hits the ball harder in the AL.  His home runs tend to be big and clutch.  He also has a tremendous arm out in right field, not that Lamont considers those things.

David Murphy LF – Murphy is a platoon player who can come up with big hits, but he can also be overused.  On that note, have we overused Santiago at this point in time?

Mitch Moreland 1B – Mitch-a-palooza is a valuable role player who has developed quite a following in the Metroplex.

Rangers Starters:

CJ Wilson – Honestly, I’ve watched him closely as he’s developed from a reliever to closer to starter, and I still can’t believe he’s this good.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff or nasty movement, but he can hit his spots.  I think where his real growth came was as Robin to Batman Lee last year.  He has reaffirmed over and over again how much he learned from Lee.  He is meticulous in his prep and he sticks to his plan.

Colby Lewis – Crafty vet who learned “the art of pitching” in Japan.  I think we’ll get to Wilson, but Colby will always keep Texas in the game.

Derek Holland – kind of the X-factor for the Rangers pitching staff.  If I recall correctly, he was second in the majors in complete game shutouts with 4, but it also wasn’t until late in the season that he got his ERA under 4.  Around here people watch out for the Derek Holland Blow Up, and it usually happens in the 4th or 5th.  If he can get past those innings, watch out.

Matt Harrison – Harrison is still developing, but I think the hard throwing lefty has the most upside of any Rangers starter.  Look for him to pitch game 4 in Detroit.

Rangers Bullpen:

Alexi Ogando – You may remember Ogando, 3-0 against the Tigers this year while the rest of the staff went 0-6.  He came out of the pen in spring training and was putting up Cy Young type numbers in the first half of the season until the heavy workload set in.  Ron Washington smartly moved him back to the pen a few weeks before the season was over and he responded with 2.2 innings and 1 hit against Tampa.  His stuff is nasty.

Mike Adams and Koji Uehara – I’m lumping these guys together because they were traded for to strengthen the struggling Rangers bullpen in mid-season, and largely have been disappointments. If you’ll recall they started their Rangers career against the Tigers and (I think) were each greeted by Tigers home runs (one was an 8th inning game decider by Boesch…if I’m remembering correctly).

Darren Oliver – He’s past his prime.  We want to see him.

Michael Gonzalez – Journeyman who had a huge 3 pitch strikeout in game 3 of the TB series.

Neftali Feliz – Dynamic closer with a plus fastball and plus curve.  He’s had an organizational spotlight on him since he was 16, and he has not disappointed.  His career whip is .95 and he’s struck out just over 9 per 9.

Game 2011 Playoffs.5: Tigers at Yankees

(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:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

 

Game 2011 Playoffs.4: Yankees at Tigers

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:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Don Kelly, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Wilson Betemit, 3B

 

Game 2011 Playoffs.3: Yankees at Tigers

(see if you can spot the difference between this image and the game 1 image)

The ALCS moves to Detroit tonight for game 3.  Game time temperature should be in the mid-60s, and it should slide down into the 50s throughout the game.  But no rain in sight.  (Mike Napoli just went yard, again, Rangers up 2-1.)

Yesterday’s game was almost too much to take.  We seemed destined to be another anecdote in Yankee’s lore after the Avila slip.  If anyone believes in his stuff it’s Valverde.  Bravo Papa Grande. I know he threw 30+ or something yesterday, but I’m pretty sure that he’s avail tonight if we need him.  I don’t think Benoit will be.

Today’s news is the lineup changes – Maggs slides down to 6, Avila to 8, and Santiago to 2.  Santiago hits CC decently well (.294) and plays better D, so he gets the nod over Raburn. According to Jimmy, Avila has been pressing a bit, so hopefully the 8 hole will help him get something going.

Yankees are sticking with their same game 2 lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Curtis Granderson, CF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (this caused a bit of a stir in NY)
5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Jorge Posada, DH
8. Russell Martin, C
9. Brett Gardner, LF

Todd Jones throwing out first pitch tomorrow night…(confusion)

 

 

Game 2011.Playoffs.2: Tigers at Yankees

The start of Game 1 was a mess, and then it ended badly. Gene Lamont did what Gene Lamont does. Fister pitched well but for a couple of bad pitches, but those gave the Yankees enough runs to win the game.  The Alburquerque magic failed, and, after facing 182 career batters, he gave up his first ever home run in grand slam style (Beck details how rare it was for Al to throw a hanging slider).

On the bright side, it is a day game, and Brad Penny is not on the mound.

On the bright side, the Yankees took Game 1 from the Tigers the last time they met in the postseason too, and look what happened.

On the bright side, regardless of what happens today, the Tigers have Justin Verlander ready to take the mound Monday.

This afternoon Max Scherzer will try to bring the Tigers back into the win column against a reanimated Freddy Garcia, who finished the season 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA.  Back in the day, Freddy Garcia was so effective during day game starts that Alan Trammell nicknamed him “Day Game Freddy.”

Game 2 tends to be a key game for the Yankees in the postseason–in the last 8 postseason series the Yankees have been in, the Game 2 winner has gone on to take the series.  Go Max!  Your mission:  don’t throw anything hittable to that Cano guy.

Player of the Pre-Game: Victor Martinez had a nice 12-pitch AB against Nova last night.  That kind of patience and selection will go a long way against Freddy Garcia.

Today’s Return-of-Ramon Lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Wilson Betemit, 3B
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

 

Game 2011 Playoffs.1: Tigers at Yankees

(if any real artists out there would like to make a real graphic, please let me know.  but the ALDS choice of color didn’t give me much to work with)

They’re here!  The Playoffs are here!  What a welcome guest.  Honestly, I’m not so sure that I’ve recovered yet from the excitement of Wednesday night, perhaps the greatest regular season night in MLB history.  And as incredible as the Wild Card finishes were, Wed night was especially dramatic for us in Detroit and Arlington, as home field advantage hung in the balance.  Detroit has played the best ball in the Majors for over a month now, and while everyone says they were beating up on a weak AL Central, let’s not forget that a big reason why Cle and Chi ended up <.500 was because they lost so many games to the Tigers in the last month.

This marks the 13th playoff appearance for the Tigers, their first division title since Alan Trammell was robbed of the MVP in ’87 and the 6th trip to the playoffs for Ol’ Smokey in 20 years of smoking from the top step.  12 of the 25 players on the roster had their first sip of champagne, and speaking of roster, it includes Penny, Perry, PSantos, Kelly, Dirks and Inge.  Guillen, Pauley and Below, not so much.  I don’t want to inject too much criticism in this joyous post, but am I the only one who has watched Perry struggle with everything other than his tattoo artist this year?

Verlander is a career 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in 10 starts.  The Yankees are great at working the count, fouling off pitches and drawing walks, and this has led to an average start of 5 2/3 IPs against the Yankees.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but that has to be one of the lowest versus any team for JV.  First pitch strikes tonight will be crucial.

JV is going to have his hands full with a Yankees lineup that features up to six lefties, with three of them recent MVP candidates (not to mention one from the right side).  In my mind, the key will be keeping Jeter off base in front of Granderson/Cano/Teixiera/Rodriguez.  Those guys are going to get a few hits, let’s just make sure that they are not scooting Jeter (9-25, .360 career) around the bases in front of them.  The Yankees 2-5 hitters are a career 12-67 off of JV.

Cabrera simply dominates CC as Miggy has a 1.591 OPS in 16 plate appearances.  Betemit has had success with 3 hits in 5 ABs, and Santiago is 7-24, but everyone else has been pedestrian…at best.

Other notes that I couldn’t shoehorn in above
– Would you hire Terry Francona right now?  I might.
– Fister is the September AL pitcher of the month.  5-0 with a .53 ERA will do that for you.

Playoffs Thursday

Blank page to discuss tomorrow’s match-ups.

Game 2011.162: Indians at Tigers

The Tigers streak into the final game of the regular season having won 3 in a row, 6 of 10, and 28 of 38.   But, we’re still a game behind the Rangers as all Texas has done is won 5 in a row, and 9 of 10.

John Lowe covered the significance of today’s schedule in great detail this morning, as he points out that our best case scenario would be a W today, a Rangers loss, and opening the playoffs at home versus the Red Sox.  The Rays pitching staff has everyone in a tizzy, but we won 6/7 against TB this year, so bring them on.  But in all likelihood, we’ll be at New York on Friday night with CC Sabathia throwing a first pitch ball to AJax around 8:37pm Eastern.

A Porcello win today would grant the Tigers a trio of 15 game winners, two of whom posted a 4.4+ ERA.  That says an awful lot about our lineup & bullpen.

Congrats to JV who, unless Weaver appears for a few scoreless innings, will win the pitching triple crown.  Kershaw will do the same in LA, and this marks the first time since 1924 that both leagues have produced a triple crown winner.

Tonight’s Home Field Clinching Lineup Feature POG Prediction Ramon Santiago (and eventual ALCS MVP).

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Wilson Betemit, 3B
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Victor Martinez, DH
6. Alex Avila, C
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Don Kelly, RF
9. Ramon Santiago, 2B