|Verlander did what aces do in the postseason. Still, it's an A-worthy effort. (Getty Images)|
After seeing all these dramatic victories and close games, not to mention the first time in baseball history that we have four divisional series going the distance, I'm very tempted to to just go with something like "baseball" for the A. But, nah, let's actually stick with what we saw on the field. It's time to grade the night.
Justin Verlander: On the day that we saw the Reds lose, blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Giants, the Tigers were in danger of suffering the same fate. Only they have something the Reds don't: Verlander. Playoff aces are a valuable thing, especially someone who can so reliably go the distance and completely erase any worries the club might have of a repeat bullpen meltdown. Verlander just put the team on his back, going all nine innings, allowing four hits, one walk and nary a run while striking out 11. We don't yet know how the Tigers' season will end, but if they win the World Series, this game will be part of the club's lore.
Baltimore batters: The Orioles offense needed 13 innings to collect eight hits and score two runs against the Yankees, and this included 6 2/3 innings from Phil Hughes. He isn't bad at home, but he's not exactly Verlander. In all, the Orioles hit .174 and left eight men on base. Also, Lew Ford pinch ran for Jim Thome and got picked off. Why not an F? Because of Manny Machado's 13th inning double, Nate McLouth's textbook ground-ball-right-side to move Machado over and J.J. Hardy's go-ahead double. And don't fret here for the negative attention, Orioles fans, as the O's pitching staff deserves an A for an outstanding night. It's just that they were overshadowed a bit by Mr. Verlander.
The Yankees offense: Yes, the Orioles' pitching staff was exceptional and deserves tons of credit -- especially that insanely productive bullpen -- but the Yankees hit .266/.338/.469 with 138 homers and 406 runs at home in 81 games during the regular season. Yes, that's an average of five runs per game. In 13 innings Thursday night, the Yankees managed one run on seven hits. They hit .159/.245/.205. That's pathetic against anyone, but note that Orioles starter Joe Saunders entered the game with a 5.82 career ERA against the Yankees.