I feel great this morning; first playoff win of the year and only 10 more until we reach our goal! The rain and cooler weather really makes it a shame that the most important games of the year are played in some of the worst weather. The year should be over before November in my opinion…but on to all the good…
First, while I would have rather the game be played after Verlander through 27 pitches in the first inning and CC looking sharp, (the HR was a cheapie) we caught a break that the lineup of Detroit had at least 2 platoon guys in the lineup who now had to face a righty. With only one lefty in the pen I would have made immediate changes to the lineup if I were Leyland and told the folks I was watching with this. Leyland should have listened as he ended up pinch hitting of Inge anyway after he got out after his first AB. This also underscores something I have said that is valid, especially in a 5 game series where you have more pitching than you need. If you had a pitcher who was better against one side but you really didn’t want him in the rotation (take Hughes as an example who is much better against righties); you start him and have the other team set their lineup with their platoon guy (of course you must be playing a team that has at least 2 guys they platoon with) and then you let him pitch until he allows 1 or maybe 2 guys on and that is it, you yank him and then put in the (in this case) lefty starter you wanted to put in. The idea is only that the other team has wasted moves or they have bad matchups with little or no hard to you. If I were managing that is what I would do at the right times.
Fister was impressive with an arsenal of good pitches, but we did an excellent job of hitting and we took advantage of less control than Fister usually shows. Cano’s almost HR gave us the 2-1 lead. Classic Cano driving a pitch the other way and in a warmer environment would have been gone. As it were, if the fan would have put his hands on to of the fence he would have caught a HR.
We fast forward to the 6th where Nova was still “pitching a shutout” even though he had a lot of balls where his release point was WAY off. Tex goes the other way for a double and Posada works a very tough walk. With one out, the Yanks had 1st and 2nd but after Martin weakly grounded out to SS it looked like we might squander another opportunity as we did with 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. In the 2nd and 3rd situation, Jeter had a horrible AB followed by Granderson who had 2 very hittable pitches, but he swung through them and then Cano grounded out. Back to now 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs. Gardner took 2 very good pitches and was in trouble at 0-2. But then took advantage of a curve ball that hung up and hit a hard grounder up the middle (2nd base side) for a huge 2 out 2 run hit! Now at 4-1 we looked to be in good shape. Gardner was on 1st and it was a clear time to steal and this time Jeter did something that I usually have to criticize him for and that is he took not only one pitch but two pitches to give Gardner time to steal…he did not though. This was an unselfish move by Jeter that did put him in an 0-2 hole. Gardner should have had a must steal on the next pitch but he didn’t and Jeter took ball 1. The next pitch Gardner did go and for some inexplicable reason Detroit had the 2nd baseman cover (they almost always have the SS cover on Jeter) and Jeter hit a very weak grounder through the vacated 2nd base hole – Gardner went on to 3rd. Granderson also fell behind 0-2, but Fister could not put him away and with Jeter stealing 2nd (this was a good move), as it helped Granderson work a walk (it appeared they pitched a little more carefully to him). Now up came Cano; I assumed a lefty would be brought in, but instead Detroit went to their unhittable stud Al Alburquerque to close the door on any more runs. First, I must say that in my previous blog I called him Detroit’s closer, and while his numbers would make one think that, it was not correct, he is just the best guy in their pen. Valverde is their closer and they also have Benoit. Anyway, if you didn’t read my long pre playoff post (which I did fix), Al has incredible numbers. To repeat what I wrote, “batters only hit .142 and had only ONE extra base hit all year off of him (a double). His slug against is (what might be a major league record) .149! That is not a misprint; .149 slug against is unheard of. He does walk guys though, walking 29 batters in 43 innings. Obviously, he has electric stuff and did not allow a single earned run after the all star break.” Welcome to the Bronx in playoff time Mr. Querque! Robbie Cano took a strike and then delivered the death blow to Detroit in game 1 with a towering Grand Slam! So much for that fantastic stretch by Al.
The rest of the game went in to cruise control until the 9th. I had a disagreement with the folks I was watching with that I would have taken Nova out for the 9th because I wanted him well rested for game 5 if needed. I know he had only thrown 80 pitches so clearly he could finish out with less than 100, but he was having some trouble with his release point and while his stuff was pretty good, honestly, Detroit didn’t swing the bats very well as they swung at a lot of balls. Take him out and let’s see if Cory Wade could be used in the postseason because they had 3 righties coming up. That is what I would have done, but I do understand the other side on this so I do not think it was a dumb move to start him in the 9th, but I would have done it differently. After getting Ordonez to ground out, maybe my concerns were wrong in this case. Then he took one off his butt and this was a good time to take him out and use the “injury” to bring in Wade. I like to give my young guys some experience and see how they handle things when less important; it gives you info for the future. Anyway, Girardi stuck with Nova and also got Mariano up to throw with Ayala. After walking Cabrera, Girardi still stuck with Nova and then after a walk to Martinez Ayala was brought in. Ayala got on out before allowing 2 singles and Girardi said let’s end this with the Genius Maker…Rivera did not disappoint as he threw 3 straight strikes for a K and game 1 on our quest to 11 is under our belt!
A couple of other notes, Posada swung the bat well but again showed why when you combine the slowest speed in the league with the worst instincts possible (a phrase I used to the folks I was watching with BEFORE his base running mistake) you get the worst base runner in the game. Posada did score on Gardner’s single, but I would have been tempted to pinch run for him (although in a 2-1 game the correct decision was made) but only tempted.
ARod was 0-5 but hit the ball on the nose a few times; the one he hit to deep center would have been gone with the ARod of old, but he did not look lost even though the results were not good. ARod will be key to us with teams being careful to pitch to Robbie; so I hope he gets it going.
The big question is whether the Yanks start CC tonight. My feeling is that he could without an issue, but I don’t think it means that much because we will still need someone to pitch game 4 and you might as well give him another days rest. The only reason I consider it is if the weather appears to look bad and if another game could get rained out it gives you CC for that extra game. I think I would speak with him and say “when would we expect you to be at your best” and start him then.
Let’s get number 2 tonight!