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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Posted on: October 4, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 2:49 am

Huge early play: Granderson's catch

By Matt Snyder

We're a few innings in at this point, but it's hard to shake the fallout of Curtis Granderson's first-inning catch. With the bases loaded, Tigers right fielder Don Kelly hit a rocket to dead center field. Granderson at first came in on the ball before realizing it was going to go over his head. He then made an outstanding leaping catch to end the inning.

Considering Kelly can fly, Granderson didn't land on his feet and that the runners were all moving on contact -- there were two outs -- it most certainly would have been an inside-the-park grand slam if Granderson hadn't made the grab. So it would have been a 4-0 lead for the Tigers in the first inning, with fickle A.J. Burnett on the hill and Comerica Park would have been rocking. Essentially, there's an argument to be made that the series was over if Granderson doesn't make that catch.

Instead, it's 2-1 Yankees after four innings and Burnett hasn't been awful (4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K).

It's far from over, but Granderson's recovery could well be the play that saved the season for the Yankees.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 8:02 pm

Beltre sends Rangers to ALCS with three homers


By Evan Brunell

Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and George Brett.

That's the company Adrian Beltre finds himself in after his power display in Game 4 of the ALDS, slugging three home runs for the first time in divisional series play. These three players are also on the list, Ruth doing it twice. Two others have also accomplished the honor: Bob Robertson and Adam Kennedy, the last man to accomplish the feat when he knocked the lights out in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series.

Beltre's power led Texas to a 4-3 victory, the Rangers scoring all their runs on solo blasts. Ian Kinsler led off the game with his own homer to set the pace, with three total homers off of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (and Beltre adding his third off Matt Moore), but Beltre's all anyone was talking about after the game.

"The first couple of games, their pitchers were really good," Beltre told TBS after the game. "I couldn't get nothing, but today something changed. I felt more comfortable at the plate. I did something to help my team win."

Beltre's power display has been going on for a while. He missed 37 games with a left thigh strain, but came off the DL on September 1 and slugged 12 homers the rest of the way, best in the majors. On the year, he had 32 blasts which is good for second-most in his career behind 2004's 48 taters. If he hadn't hit the DL, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think he could have approached 40. Not shabby for a player the Angels passed on in free agency, much to Texas' gain. Beltre's power and defensive wizardry have both combined to make him one of the best third basemen in the game, something he showed the masses on Tuesday.

And now, Beltre gets to advance to the ALCS in his first postseason since 2004, when the Dodgers were bounced in four games by the Cardinals. Beltre only collected four singles in 16 plate appearances, and that was the extent of his postseason experience... until now.

"That's one of the major reasons I came to this team," Beltre explained, "to hopefully put a ring on my finger."

So far, so good.

Video: Beltre and manager Ron Washington discuss the Game 4 victory.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 5:41 pm

Eye on Photos: Rangers eliminate Rays in ALDS

By Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers have taken down the Tampa Bay Rays, three games to one. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

A 2-run homer for Kelly Shoppach gave him two HRs and five RBI in Game 1, which the Rays won. (Getty Images)
Rookie Matt Moore had only made one career major-league start before Game 1. He went out and threw seven shutout innings and got the win. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton hugs Cooper Stone, who lost his father at Rangers Ballpark earlier this summer. (Getty Images)
Cooper Stone throws the first pitch before Game 1. (Getty Images)
All-Star James Shields was spotted an early lead, but fell apart in Game 2. (Getty Images)
Mitch Moreland came through big in Game 2 for the Rangers, as this home run provided insurance in the eighth. (Getty Images)
Craig Gentry had never been caught stealing in the regular season or postseason ... until Game 3. (Getty Images)
Rookie Desmond Jennings homered to give the Rays a 1-0 lead in Game 3. (Getty Images)
Elvis Andrus had a little trouble with finding a pop up in the Tropicana Field ceiling. (Getty Images)
David Price reacts after losing a 1-run lead in the seventh inning of Game 3. (Getty Images)
Mike Napoli is greeted at home after a go-ahead, two-run home run in Game 3. (Getty Images)
Afternoon game times didn't deter Rays fans from attending. (Getty Images)
Rough day for the camera man, as he fell trying to film Adrian Beltre on a home-run trot in Game 4. Beltre ended up becoming the first player to ever homer three times in an LDS game. (Getty Images)
Sean Rodriguez levels Mike Napoli at home plate, scoring the Rays' first run in Game 4. (Getty Images)

Up next for the Rangers, either the Tigers or the Yankees in the ALCS. So after having never been to a League Championship Series prior to 2010, the Rangers have now gone two straight seasons.

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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