Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Burning Questions: ALDS Game 1

Tigers/Yankees ALDS
Game 1's Burning Questions

Did Jim Leyland over-manage in the second inning when he called for a hit and run with runners on first and second and nobody out and Pudge Rodriguez at bat?

Yes, yes, and yes. I agree with Big Al, who rightly points out that that situation didn't have "hit and run" written on it. I know Leyland likes to go against the grain, but you have to play to your strengths, as Big Al argues. Pudge is a hacker, and with a sinker ball pitcher on the mound, that can be a lethal combination -- for the pitcher. The Tigers had the makings of a big inning, and the failed move made things a lot easier for Yankees pitcher Wang.

What were the key moments, in your mind, aside from the failed hit and run?

I thought the Tigers were sitting pretty again in the third inning, when they had runners on the corners with one out and Placido Polanco at the plate. Polanco, normally very reliable in those situations, was sure to get at least a sacrifice fly, I thought. Or with a sinker baller, at least a grounder to the right side of the infield to drive in a run. But Polanco, shockingly, pulled a ground ball to Derek Jeter, who made a terrific throw to start an inning-ending, backbreaking double play.

The other key came, I believe, when Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson couldn't cleanly field Johnny Damon's swinging bunt to lead off the Yankees' third. That changed the complexion of the inning, as far as I'm concerned. There's a big difference between one out and nobody on, and having the leadoff man on base -- especially when that runner was totally preventable. It's like walking him, but only worse. The muff gave the Yankees, essentially, four outs, and that is another lethal thing.

Did the Tigers look scared or intimidated?

No, I don't think so. Curtis Granderson led off the game hacking, and the defense was reasonably sharp, save for Robertson's blunder. They rebounded well from the 5-0 hole, and produced some two-out hits in the fifth to make the score 5-3. The five-run Yankee third happens to everyone, because their lineup is ridiculously potent. I give the Tigers high marks for not packing it in or playing tentatively.

What did you think of Derek Jeter?

The guy is insane in the postseason. He doesn't get mentioned as much as Reggie Jackson when it comes to October histrionics, but Jeter is one of the all time greatest postseason players, period. He makes it look so easy out there -- with the bat and the glove -- that it's stupid.

Are the Tigers showing after effects of their season-ending slump?

Yes. They haven't played good baseball on a consistent basis since early August. That's two months ago, folks. This is an 85-win team that sold its soul to the devil from April 3 to August 7. Now even their starting pitching is beginning to abandon them, which is the final death knell. This will probably end in a Yankees sweep.

Is Game 2 the Tigers' best chance to win?

I'd say yes. Justin Verlander is rested, he feels strong, and maybe the Yankees will have a bit of a hangover, suffering from over confidence. I don't think it will happen, but if the Tigers have a decent chance of winning a game in this series, it's tonight.

Tell me some good news. What encouraged you?

Granderson's homerun off lefty Mike Myers was nice to see. So was Craig Monroe's homerun off Wang. Monroe was 19-for-105 (.181) to finish the season, so if he can get it going, the Tigers might have a shot. The other encouraging thing was the amount of hits the Tigers got off Wang, a 19-game winner. At least they didn't go down quietly.


Blogger Ozz said...

RE: the Pudge hit and run. I heard it reported that Leyland said he was willing to take chances against the Yankees and wasn't worried about being criticized. If Pudge connects on that hit and run, Maggs isn't thrown out at third. That changes the complexion of the game.

Yeah, the Nate blunder was a bummer. Looked like a tough play for a lefty to field.

I also don't think the Tigers are intimidated.

I thought that by getting into NY's bullpen, the Tigers were going to get something going. I was surprised when Torre pulled Wang, who probably could've gone longer. I was hoping that would turn out to be a mistake on Joe's part. I also thought they'd get something going off Farnsworth, considering all those balls he was throwing.

10:01 PM  

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