|This pitch is probably going to be tapped into a harmless 4-3 putout or something like that. (Getty Images)|
Does it even matter who pitches as long as the Yankees are the ones hitting? Perhaps that's too harsh, but it's starting to feel that way. Justin Verlander is the latest to smother the Yanks, as he allowed only one run in 8 1/3 innings in Game 3. Now the Tigers find themselves one win away from the World Series ...
Detroit starting pitchers. Consider Justin Verlander's 132-pitch effort a contribution to the playoff body of work. Detroit starting pitchers this postseason -- Verlander, Max Scherzer (Detroit's Game 4 starter), Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez -- have combined to allow six earned runs across 56 1/3 innings pitched. That comes to a 2012 playoff ERA of 0.96. They've also struck out 56 batters over those 56 1/3 innings. That's utter dominance when it matters most. Game 3 on Tuesday provided the latest example of same.
Eduardo Nunez. Not bad at all. The 25-year-old Nunez earlier this postseason experienced the oddity of batting ninth as a DH, but this time he was starting in place of the fallen Derek Jeter. Not only did he man the Captain's position quite capably, but he also touched Verlander for a ninth-inning home run (the Yanks' only extra-base hit of the night). That made it a game again. Nunez's team lost, but it's not on him.
Phil Coke. We'll start by bottom-lining it: Coke picked up his second save of the series. Given the Tigers' recent history of converting saves, that's to be praised. However, Coke made things unnecessarily interesting when he gave up back-to-back singles to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. He closed it out only after a full-count, seven-pitch battle with Raul Ibanez. Mission accomplished, but not smoothly accomplished.
Joe Girardi. As Jim Leyland mentioned in his post-game press conference, Girardi did a nifty job of handling his pitching staff after the injury to Phil Hughes. However, he didn't distinguish himself while the Yankees were threatening in the ninth. Why do you let Ichiro Suzuki face Phil Coke when Coke has a history of being abused by right-handed batters? The switch-hitting Nick Swisher, for instance, would've blocked a possible switch to a right-handed reliever by Leyland. And, yes, Raul Ibanez has been scorching, but he's simply not a good hitter without the platoon advantage going his way. There went another chance to "opposite side" Coke. It was poor tactical management by Girardi when his team could least afford it.
Yankee hitters vs. anyone but Jose Valverde. There's not really much need for elaboration here: the Yankees have mustered but five runs in the ALCS, and four of those have come off Valverde. Since Leyland has proved he's not yoked to the idea of Valverde as the one and only closer, the Yankees would do well to, you know, score off someone else.