Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:31 am

Delmon Young thrives with protection in ALDS

By Matt Snyder

Delmon Young had just four home runs in 325 plate appearances for the Twins before being traded in August. He was waiver-wire fodder at the time. The Tigers picked him up and immediately started batting him third, even as many in the baseball world scratched their heads over the placement. But with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez behind him, Young would hit eight home runs in just 168 at-bats after the trade in the regular season. And in the ALDS win over the Yankees, Young was a star.

In the five ALDS games, Young hit .316 with three home runs four RBI and he even walked as many times as he struck out. That's an insane movement from a guy who has struck out 514 times and walked just 125 in his career in the regular season.

Tigers 3, Yankees 2
Conventional wisdom says that a manager should hit his best hitter third. That would easily be Caberera on the Tigers. And I believe the majority of the managers in the bigs would bat Cabrera third and Martinez cleanup. Young would probably hit somewhere from fifth to seventh for most guys. Instead, what Leyland has done with Young is noticed he's managing a guy who swings the bat too much and rarely takes pitches. In his sixth major-league season, Young isn't likely to break that habit, so instead, Leyland put him in position to see more strikes. No one wants to pitch to Cabrera and Martinez with men on base, so Young is seeing strikes. And he's making pitchers pay for them.

Now, the question turns to Young's status. He left Game 5 with an injured oblique and that is bad news. The Tigers will be crossing their fingers it's a very mild oblique issue, because he could be lost for the postseason if it's a significant strain. Evan Longoria of the Rays missed a month with an oblique strain earlier this season, for example.

If Young is healthy enough to play, he'll remain in the three-hole, with that nice protection behind him. And if he continues to see strikes, he'll continue to produce for the Tigers. Even if he's not a conventional three-hole hitter.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 3:02 am

Tigers eliminate Yankees, head to ALCS

By Matt Snyder

Hero: Doug Fister needed to step up for the Tigers with ace Justin Verlander unavailable and he gave the Tigers five strong innings. It wasn't an elite performance by any stretch, but he held down a powerful Yankees offense, only allowing one run -- a Robinson Cano solo homer. The Tigers acquired Fister in a late-July trade and he proved a solid No. 2 starter down the stretch. He did so again Thursday night. This was definitely a team effort, as several Tigers were worthy of consideration. Fister gets the nod by a nose.

Tigers 3, Yankees 2
Goat: This was a collective effort by the offense, so we'll just give it to everyone. Cano hit a solo homer and the other run scored was walked in. Otherwise, it was a team effort in leaving guys on base. They had 10 hits and three walks, but only two runs. The worst instance was in the fourth inning, when the Yankees had the bases loaded and one out, yet failed to score. Also, in the bottom of the seventh, they had bases loaded, one out with their cleanup hitter coming up. A run was walked in, sure, but they still only got one run in a situation where they could have easily scored two to four. The game hung in balance in either of those situations and the Yankees simply didn't get the job done.

Turning point: Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning and the Tigers had a lead before the Yankees ever batted. They would never relinquish the lead. So if there was any feeling the Yankees had the advantage as they headed home, it was out the window within three batters.

It was over when ... Tigers closer Jose Valverde struck out Alex Rodriguez to end the game. This thing was in doubt the entire game until the final out was secured.

Next: The Yankees' season is over. The Tigers will head to Texas to square off against the Rangers, where a Verlander vs. C.J. Wilson matchup in Game 1 of the ALCS awaits.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 10:13 pm

Bryce Harper rooting for Yankees on Twitter

By Matt Snyder

Bryce Harper was the top overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft ... for the Washigton Nationals. He reached Double-A in the Nats system this year and could be in the majors as soon as next season. He'll certainly be there by 2013 and is a major part of a bright future for Washington. He's also a bit polarizing, as many fans don't seem to like him for whatever the reason. For those, the following two tweets aren't likely to gain Harper any more fans. During Thursday night's ALDS Game 5 between the Yankees and the the Tigers, Harper -- again, a member of the Nationals -- was openly rooting for the Yankees. Or maybe just CC Sabathia?

This just doesn't seem like the thing he should be letting the public -- including his teammates, coaches and Nationals fans -- see. Harper is a professional baseball player in the Washington Nationals system. He can openly root for a major-league team if he wants, as long as it's the Nationals. Just saying he loves the Nats wasn't enough. He shouldn't be rooting for anyone else. Period.

UPDATE: That didn't take long. The first two tweets have been deleted by Harper. Evidently he realized his error or someone else told him to delete them.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 8:53 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 9:47 pm

Girardi yanks Nova after two innings

By Matt Snyder

New York-Detroit ALDS
After two innings and 31 pitches, Ivan Nova's night was done in Game 5 of the ALDS between the Tigers and the Yankees. Nova did allow back-to-back home runs in the first inning to Don Kelly and Delmon Young -- which marked the first time in postseason history the Tigers went deep in back-to-back fashion -- and coughed up a leadoff double in the second inning. But after that he induced two groundouts and struck out Ramon Santiago to end the inning.

Unless Nova was injured, that's an awfully quick hook for a starting pitcher on normal rest, but Girardi did say it was "all hands on deck" Thursday night. If Nova's not injured, Girardi simply didn't like what he saw and elected to get Nova out of the game (UPATE: Girardi said during an on-camera interview that Nova was "tightening up." So that's why he was pulled). Phil Hughes took over and worked around a Young single for a scoreless third inning to keep the score 2-0 Detroit.

UPDATE: With one out in the fourth, Hughes allowed a single and Girardi removed him in favor of Boone Logan. Evidently, Girardi's plan is to use many different pitches in small doses.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:54 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 7:57 pm

Justin Verlander definitely unavailable Thursday

By Matt Snyder

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was pretty firm in his stance Wednesday that ace Justin Verlander was not going to pitch in Game 5. He meant it, because Verlander threw a 57-pitch bullpen session -- as are customary between starts for major-leaguers in the rotation -- Thursday afternoon. There's no way Verlander would be asked to dial it up back up under any circumstances, so he's done for the ALDS. If the Tigers lose, he won't pitch again until 2012, as this is an elimination game.

Knowing what we know, this is pretty confusing.

New York-Detroit ALDS
Verlander was able to throw 57 pitches in the bullpen. Even if he wasn't completely throwing 100 percent, he surely could have managed 25 or so pitches at 100 percent in the game, right? And if he doesn't throw his bullpen session during the day, that doesn't mean you have to pitch him during the game. It's just a bit mind-boggling to completely take the option off the table by having him go ahead with his session instead of waiting and seeing if he could be used.

What if starting pitcher Doug Fister melts down and is forced to leave after two innings? Max Scherzer will likely take over, but he's not the best pitcher in the AL. Verlander is.

The Tigers' season will be over if they lose Game 5. It seems like they'd be ready to do whatever it takes to avoid such a scenario. We're not talking about endangering a player's future here. We're talking about a pitcher who threw 57 meaningless pitches in the afternoon instead of being ready to throw a few meaningful pitches during Game 5 of the ALDS. No one is saying the Tigers should schedule Verlander to throw, say, the sixth and seventh innings. I'm simply saying they should have at least left open the option of him contributing around 25 pitches. The Yankees are leaving the option of CC Sabathia open. Friday night, the Phillies will have Cliff Lee in the bullpen. It's time to advance to the LCS.

We don't know what's going to happen in the game and the Tigers do have a good bullpen. But if they lose because of one or two bad innings from the pitching staff, Leyland is going to have plenty of questions to answer.

After the game, they call that second-guessing. So consider this a first guess. I just don't get it.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:55 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 7:07 pm

See-saw ALDS comes down to Game 5

By Matt Snyder

You want to talk about momentum? Go ahead. It's proven incorrect through most the Tigers-Yankees ALDS.

The national narrative has constantly shifted in this series. After Game 1 was suspended, the Yankees had the advantage because Justin Verlander would only get one start. After Game 1 finished, the Yankees had the advantage. After Game 2, the Tigers had the edge as they were going home with a split. After Game 3, the Tigers had the series in the bag, because there was no way A.J. Burnett would pitch well. But he did. And now the Yankees have the advantage, as they head home with the momentum. Right? So goes the narrative.

This Game 5, like the entire series, is a complete toss up. Drawing conclusions based upon what we've seen in the first four games would be folly, because you can throw everything out the window. It's Game 5. Anything can happen. And it's great theater involving pretty opposite cities.

We've got a team that hadn't won a division since 1987 against a team that has won its division 12 times in the past 16 seasons, but it's also blue collar against white collar. It's East Coast against the Midwest. Wall Street against the auto industry.

And it all comes down to one game. Let's size it up.

Game 5: Tigers at Yankees, 8:07 p.m. ET, Yankee Stadium, TBS


Tigers Yankees
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Austin Jackson CF 1 Derek Jeter SS
2 Don Kelly 3B 2 Curtis Granderson CF
3 Delmon Young LF 3 Robinson Cano 2B
4 Miguel Cabrera 1B 4 Alex Rodriguez 3B
5 Victor Martinez DH 5 Mark Teixeira 1B
6 Magglio Ordonez RF 6 Nick Swisher RF
7 Alex Avila C 7 Jorge Posada DH
8 Jhonny Peralta SS 8 Russell Martin C
9 Ramon Santiago 2B 9 Brett Gardner LF
  Doug Fister RHP   Ivan Nova RHP


Nova vs. Tigers: He completely shut the Tigers down in the continuation of Game 1 through six innings, but faltered after that. Still, he now has one postseason outing under his belt and got some confidence out of it. The big stage won't phase him one iota Thursday night. As far as the hitters, we have a very small sample from which to judge. Not one Tigers hitter has more than six plate appearances against Nova. Victor Martinez has reached base four of the six times he's faced Nova. The only other thing that stands out is Nova's faced 38 Tigers batters in his career and has not allowed a single extra-base hit.

Fister vs. Yankees: He actually settled in for a short span in Game 1, but the final line looks ugly because he had a rough last inning and Al Alburquerque gave up a grand slam -- three runs of which were charged to Fister. I know some of the stat crowd would freak out to hear this, but it's possible Fister had some nerves last time out, too. He'd never pitched in the playoffs and he had to take the hill on the biggest stage of all. Now that he has one outing under his belt, it's possible he gets back into a groove. In a small sample, several Yankees hit Fister well, though. Derek Jeter is 5-for-13 (.385). Mark Teixeira is hitting .364 with a 1.273 OPS against Fister. Robinson Cano is 3-for-8 with two doubles. Overall, the Yankees are hitting .310 off Fister, but no player has faced him more than 13 times.

New York-Detroit ALDS
  • The last time the Yankees won a deciding game (meaning a Game 5 in the ALDS or a Game 7 in the ALCS or World Series) was the Aaron Boone home run game. Seriously. In the 2003 ALCS, the Yankees won Game 7. Since then, they've either not needed to go the full series to beat someone, or lost a decisive game. They lost the 2004 ALCS to the Red Sox in seven. They lost the ALDS three games to two to the Angels in 2005. Otherwise they haven't played a series all the way to the final game.
  • This doesn't have anything to do with many of the current players, but it's still interesting: The only other time these two franchises met in the postseason, the Tigers beat the Yankees 3-1 in the 2006 ALDS. 
  • I'll again point out that Teixeira has an abysmal playoff track record. A-Rod gets showered with boos, but Teixeira is hitting .203 with an embarrassing .314 slugging percentage in 30 career postseason games. And his only hit since Game 1 in this series was a dribbler down the third-base line that Wilson Betemit thought would go foul.
  • Brett Gardner is 5-for-13 with a double, three runs scored and five RBI in this series.
  • Alex Avila is 0-for-12 this series after a brilliant regular season.
  • The Yankees have had the same batting order all five games, but the Tigers have had a different lineup in each of the five games.
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Posted on: October 5, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 5:59 pm

Sabathia in Game 5 bullpen, Verlander not

By Matt Snyder

After the Yankees won in blowout fashion at Detroit in Game 4 of the ALDS, the series heads back to New York for one final game. The big story of the series has been the use of Cy Young contenders CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander. The two started Friday night but play was suspended after the top of the second inning. They then squared off Monday night, with Verlander's Tigers winning. They'll only be on two days' rest Thursday, so there's no way either could start, but what about coming out of the bullpen?

Sabathia is a tentative yes.

"I would think that I would [have Sabathia], but I have to check with him," Girardi said (MLB.com). "I can check with him today, [but] it doesn't matter how he feels today, it matters how he feels [Thursday]. I would expect I would have him."

New York-Detroit ALDS
Verlander, on the other hand, sounds like a firm no.

"I wouldn't do anything foolish," Leyland said (MLB.com). "I try not to do anything foolish with any of my pitchers, let alone an arm like that. You saw what a talent he is. I would say he's definitely done for this series."

Verlander threw 120 pitches Monday, while Sabathia threw 106. It's kind of surprising Leyland won't even consider Verlander for even one inning, as pitchers do throw side sessions between starts. Leyland did say Game 2 starter Max Scherzer would be available, but he's no Verlander. Still, the most important pitchers for Thursday's deciding Game 5 are the starters: Ivan Nova and Doug Fister.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:08 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:52 am

Tigers need Fister to step up now

By Matt Snyder

Like a pendulum, the momentum in this ALDS has swung back and forth, even a few times during the games. Now that the Yankees put the hurt on the Tigers in Game 4, 10-1, the series will conclude Thursday night in Yankee Stadium. And the pressure is back on the Tigers, as Doug Fister takes the hill.

Fister was essential to the Tigers running away with the AL Central down the stretch. He was acquired from the Mariners in late July to minimal fanfare and immediately locked in for Detroit. After the trade, Fister was 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 0.84 WHIP and a much higher strikeout rate than he had for Seattle. Of course, he didn't have to face the Yankees during that stretch. In Game 1 of the ALDS, he did. And he faltered.

New York-Detroit ALDS
The outing was odd from the get-go, as Fister started on the hill as a road pitcher, and it was the bottom of the second inning, as it was a continuation of a suspended game. Still, he had time to prepare just as he would for any normal start. The result, in Fister's first career playoff appearance, was seven hits, two walks and six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. He even balked. It was easily the worst outing of his brief Tigers career.

It's possible any nerves that may have affected Fister last time out will be gone, now that he has an outing in Yankee Stadium under his belt. Of course, the pressure won't lessen at all, because this is Game 5 of a five-game series in The Big Apple.

Whatever the problem was in Game 1, it needs to be solved before Thursday, because the Tigers are playing the Yankees in a win-or-go-home game. And the Yankees have the momentum.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com