Athlon editors cast their vote for the American League's best pitcher this season
With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) started handing out theirs today by announcing the AL and NL Rookies of the Year.
Texas has Detroit outmanned in quest for World Series
Courtesy of Doug Fister, the Detroit Tigers survived their must-win game last night in Detroit. Now down, two games to one, the Tigers must find a way to win three more games with a makeshift lineup and getting just two more starts combined from Fister and ace Justin Verlander. So, where will the third win come from?
For the Rangers, the formula seems fairly simple: Win Games 4 and 6, which means avoiding seeing Fister again in Game 7.
Yet Texas hasn’t exactly set the baseball world ablaze with starting pitchers this series either. And now manager Ron Washington will ask Matt Harrison to keep the Tigers at bay tonight in a matchup of No. 4 starters. Both Harrison and Detroit start Rick Porcello were 14-9 during the regular season.
However, the real story for the remainder of this series will be the health of the Tigers and just how much of the load Miguel Cabrera can carry. Delmon Young, who injured his rib cage earlier in the playoffs, was taken off the roster for the ALCS. After Magglio Ordoñez suffered a fractured ankle, Young was placed back on the roster. That’s how few options the Tigers have for outfielders, especially those who hit from the right side, which is a nice commodity to have with the Rangers starting three lefthanders in this series.
Last night, the situation worsened with the oblique injury to DH Victor Martinez. The slugger hurt himself on a home run. He labored around the bases and appears to have trouble swinging from the left side, presumably the right side as well. That we will find out today.
The bottom line is that the Tigers pitchers — other than Fister and Verlander — cannot silence the Texas bats. So it may not matter how thin the Detroit lineup is in games they don’t pitch. What will be critical is that the Tigers find a way to score runs in games that Fister and Verlander pitch, assuming the Tigers can even get to a seventh game.
This doesn’t look good for Detroit. Expect the Rangers to wrap this series up sooner rather than later.
The Tigers and Rangers bested AL East clubs on the way to the championship series.
The AL East, with three 90-win teams, looked like the power division in baseball for most of the season. The Boston Red Sox had a ton of expectations after the free agent signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Gonzalez performed as expected, leading the BoSox in batting average, hits and RBIs. Crawford’s first season at Fenway was a disappointment, hitting a career-low .255. Boston fell apart in September, going 7-20 over the final month and missing the postseason.
It’s not every series that the final deciding game is a rematch between two relievers from Game 1. But that is what this series has been about. Two teams, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees scrambling and shuffling pitching staffs after a rainout early in Game 1.
So Doug Fister of Detroit and Ivan Nova of the Yankees will start tonight’s Game 5 after starting the re-start of Game 1 on Saturday.
Both pitchers’ outings were similar in that they were fairly sharp a couple of times through the order, then ran into trouble the third time through. And relief pitchers allowed all their runners to score damaging their ERAs. Obviously, the most crushing blow was the Robinson Cano grand slam off Al Alburquerque that added three runs to Fister’s ERA.
But let’s throw that out the window for Game 5. Game 1 means nothing now.
Without a rooting interest in this series, I love the fact that the series lies in the hands of a pitcher (Fister), who in July, was 3-12 toiling for a last-place Seattle team; and Nova, who began the year as the Yankee’s fourth starter and had a 5.82 ERA after the first month.
The Tigers couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to close the series out at home. They’ve won two nail-biters while the Yankees have won blowouts. Even though Detroit closer Jose Valverde has had a couple of days off, it is dicey at best relying on him again in this series. He just hasn’t been sharp and has lived too close to the edge. If Game 5 goes down to the wire, the Yankees will prevail.
The only way the Tigers can win is to put the game out of reach early with big innings. That’s not likely to happen either. With these two lineups, the Yankees are the ones likely to mount big innings as they have proven thus far.
Game 5 winner will be New York and the Rangers will pack their bags for the Big Apple.
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
New York at Detroit
The mighty Yankees on the cusp of elimination? Believe it. Will they force the Tigers back to Yankee Stadium on Thursday? Not likely. I mean, how comfortable can manager Joe Girardi be putting the Yankees’ fate in the hands of A.J. Burnett? To his credit, Burnett responded from an 11.91 ERA in five August starts to a respectable 4.34 ERA in five September starts. But you have to believe that the Tigers are licking their chops.
It’s not like Rick Porcello, on the mound for Detroit, is much better. He improved a 6.82 August ERA to 3.55 in September. Porcello was a winner on May 5 against the Yankees and Burnett, but not too much can be read into that. Burnett didn’t face any of the three outfielders likely to start for Detroit tonight. Likewise, neither Derek Jeter nor Alex Rodriguez started the game for New York.
Both bullpens should be in play tonight. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera for New York have been solid and should the Yankees bridge the gap to the eighth inning, the Yankees have an advantage. Joaquin Benoit has been okay, but Daniel Schlereth has been shaky. Even though Jose Valverde has a save and closed out the other win, the game turned into an adventure with him on the mound. Can Papa Grande continue to walk the tight rope?
I keep expecting the Yankees veterans of many championships to get the big hit that turns the game. But that era in Yankees lore may be over. Jeter, the hero of postseasons past, struck out in the ninth representing the tying run in Game 2. He whiffed again with the tying run on second to end Game 3. And the torch may not have been completely passed to Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson from Jeter and Jorge Posada.
It was the Tigers’ Delmon Young with the heroic hit yesterday, a seventh inning home run off Rafael Soriano. Somehow the Tigers seem more energetic and youthful than the Yankees. I don’t see this series going back to New York.
After the unusual situation created by the Game 1 washout, the Tigers and Yankees left New York tied at one game apiece and without a day off between Games 2 and 3. Aces Justin Verlander of Detroit and CC Sabathia of New York will start Game 3 tonight after taking the mound for the brief false start last Friday.
The Tigers are certainly a confident team with Verlander on the hill, as they should be having gone 25-9 in his 34 starts this season, 11-3 at home. But in his two starts this season against New York way back on March 31 and May 2, Verlander lasted just six innings in each start, giving up three earned runs in each and not factoring in the decision of either game, both Detroit losses.
Tigers supporters will love to tell you that Verlander can stifle the heart of the Yankees’ batting order. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano have combined to hit .154 (8-52) off Verlander in their careers.
Sabathia opposed Verlander in the Opening Day start at New York, and also gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings. Like Verlander, Sabathia did not factor in the decision. The beefy lefthander did, however, take the loss in a 4-2 Detroit win in May. Over seven innings Sabathia gave up 10 hits and four runs in taking the loss.
Having said all that, both these teams have adjusted, re-adjusted and made multiple roster and lineup changes since those early season encounters.
Earlier in his career, Verlander may have been affected by the pressure of the postseason, but not in 2011. Verlander and the Tigers will win the game tonight and move on to secure a spot in the ALCS. After Max Scherzer’s performance in Game 2 for Detroit, it appears that the Yankees do not have enough starting pitching to hang with the Tigers.