The Yankees lost a pivotal game three to the Tigers, 5-4, and now hope for a quality start from the enigma that is A.J. Burnett.
Sabathia had a rocky first two innings after allowing four walks but he was able to get bailed out of trouble with timely double plays. He would walk another batter in the third to raise his total to five. It did not help that every call that was a borderline strike was called a ball by the home plate umpire.
The walks would come back to hurt Sabathia as Ramon Santiago would hit a single that would score Brandon Inge. With runners on first and third, and no outs, Sebathia was able to induce his third double play. Austin Jackson would score but that inning could have been much worse.
Tigers starter, Justin Verlander ended the sixth inning by striking out Alex Rodriguez with a 92 MPH fastball but earlier in the at-bat he had thrown a 100 MPH fastball and an 88 MPH curve. That combination is basically unhittable.
Sebathia did not have his ace caliber stuff and it is likely that Girardi should have taken him out before the sixth inning in order to bring in the rested bullpen. Johnny Paralta hit a double to deep left that scored Don Kelly to make the score 4-2 in the sixth inning.
Brett Gardner came up clutch again as he had a two RBI double, to the gap in left-center, in the seventh, to tie the game.
Verlander would throw a 101 MPH fastball to Alex Rodriguez in the eighth inning with two outs. Verlander threw 120 pitches, 74 for strikes, but allowed four runs making the loss very disappointing.
He is the obvious CY Young choice, and a possible MVP, but for Rafael Soriano to relieve Sabathia, after he battled valiantly without having his best stuff, and give up a home run to Delmon Young is deflating. Soriano’s pitch selection was questionable as well as Girardi deciding to pitch him instead of David Robertson. Robertson would have been the wise choice because he has not allowed a run in his last 10 appearances and had a stellar 1.08 season ERA.
Soriano allowed three runs in his last regular season appearance and ruined a game where the offense, overall, actually performed well off of Verlander. Among their six hits, in addition to Gardner’s two RBI double, MVP candidate Curtis Granderson hit a triple to deep center, in the first scoring Jeter.
Derek Jeter struck out to end the game. Valverde always seems to make things interesting but he was 49 out of 49 in save opportunities this season. Nothing would have been greater for Jeter, who is one of the most clutch postseason performers, to win the game off of Valverde because of his over-the-top celebrations.
Young, who threw a bat at an umpire while playing in the Tampa Bay minor league system, and was acquired by the Tigers in August, his been a helpful contributor for Detroit since his arrival.
In order for the Yankees to have a chance against the Tigers they will need the offense to perform like they are capable of. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixiera have vastly underperformed in this series, as Swisher is leading the three with a paltry .182 average.
Rodriguez, Teixiera and Swisher went a combined 0-10 in last night’s win that gave the Tigers the momentum in the series. The Yankees count on Teixiera and Rodriguez to drive in runs and not strike out or hit weak fly balls. Girardi should move Rodriguez down in the lineup like he did a few years ago, and move Jorge Posada up since he has found his stroke.
The Yankees now find themselves in the regrettable position of sending out A.J. Burnett in an elimination game. This season he had a record of 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA but two out of his last three starts were actually quality ones.
On September 25th against Boston he allowed two runs in 7.2 innings, while striking out six, and on September 13th at Seattle, he gave up two runs in six innings, while striking out an impressive 11 batters. However, Burnett is too inconsistent, and I would have more confidence in Nova coming back to pitch on short rest.
Burnett did prove that he can pitch well against a quality opponent on the 25th, so it is possible for him to pitch the Yankees to victory over Rick Porcello, who has also been inconsistent. Burnett has had trouble pitching with a lead so many times this season because he lets the smallest things get to him like a fielders or umpires mistake. If the Yankees are able to score some early runs off of Porcello he needs to be able to be in control tonight.
Porcello, from Morristown, New Jersey, finished the campaign with 14 wins and a 4.75 ERA. He allowed three runs in each of his last four starts but in four career games against the Yankees he has a 5.56 ERA. This will also be his first playoff start so he will be feeling extra butterflies.
In this possible series ending game Girardi should start Andruw Jones instead of Swisher because he has lots of playoff experience and Jones can’t do any worse than Swisher has done so far. Russell Martin is struggling as well with a .182 postseason average, so if he gets out his first two at bats, it would make sense to insert rookie sensation Jesus Montero in his place.
The Yankees need many things to come together but if Burnett has a quality start where he gives up two or three runs, and Rodriguez and Teixiera finally contribute, there is a good chance that the series comes back to the Bronx. Burnett was the Yankees most disappointing starter this season, not really deserving a playoff start, but has shown the ability to pitch well at times this season when his head is on straight.