Saturday, October 07, 2006

Burning Questions: ALDS Game 3

ALDS Game 3
Burning Questions

First things first: Where does Kenny Rogers' pitching performance rank among those you've seen in Detroit?

Right up there. Maybe #1. I once saw Jack Morris mow down the Royals with a one-hitter in which he faced the 27-batter minimum, but that was a regular season game between two teams who were going nowhere. When you factor in the Yankees lineup, the critical nature of the game, and the fact that Rogers' career record against the Yankees was less than stellar -- less than mediocre, really -- I can't think of any pitching display that tops Friday night's. He was absolutely amazing. He made an All-Star-laden lineup look silly.

What were your thoughts when Rogers walked off the field after being lifted in the eighth inning?

I had chills, and it wasn't because of the nippy weather. The ovation, topped off by Rogers doffing his cap and acknowledging the fans, was ... ooh! Haven't seen anything like that in Detroit in years.

Why bring in Joel Zumaya with a six-run lead?

It was only for one out -- Alex Rodriguez. He'll still be available for Game 4, if needed. I think manager Jim Leyland wanted to make a statement. He felt that Zumaya could get the struggling A-Rod out, and that it would serve as an exclamation point to Rogers' performance. Sure enough, Zoom Zoom only needed two pitches to retire Rodriguez on a lazy fly to shallow right center.

Speaking of A-Rod, is his earlier slump back?

Not his earlier slump. His postseason slump. Rodriguez has become the whipping boy in New York for the Yankees' recent playoff flops, and it's in his head now. He's one of the least dangerous Yankees hitters, right now, because of it.

The Yankees have now gone 15 straight innings without scoring. They were an astounding 0-for-18 with runners on base last night. What's up?

The old "good pitching beats good hitting" theory. And that doesn't mean that good hitters can never beat good pitchers. It just means that when the good pitchers are on top of their game, as Rogers obviously was last night, they'll usually beat good hitters. The Tigers' bullpen has been rock solid, too. It all adds up to a 2-1 series lead.

How about Curtis Granderson?

He's coming of age, and it's wonderful to see. I was glad to see him dropped to ninth in the order, by the way. Less pressure, although with Brandon Inge batting eighth, now you have two guys in a row who strikeout a lot. But then again, Inge batted ninth a lot when Grandy led off, so I guess it's the same thing. But Granderson is the series MVP thus far, easily.

Gary Sheffield didn't play against the lefty Rogers. Why?

Apparently because of Sheff's lack of success against Rogers, which is ironic because Rogers hadn't had any success against the Yankees until last night. But still, I was a little surprised to see Sheffield on the bench. It's tough to keep a bat like that out of the lineup, I say.

You were right: Pudge Rodriguez got a key run-scoring double last night.

Yes, I said that Pudge would do something positive in this series, sooner or later. But give credit to Leyland. The Tigers looked dead in that inning after Magglio Ordonez hit into a double play, but Carlos Guillen got a single, and Leyland called for a hit-and-run with two outs. Rodriguez, who came into the game 0-for-8, pulled a double down the left field line, scoring Guillen. Beautiful.

So is this series over? The Yankees looked beaten in the dugout.

Absolutely not. Those 15 shutout innings aren't going to last forever. They can score runs in bunches. And Jeremy Bonderman, Game 4's starter, has been known to surrender runs in bunches. To count the Yankees out and prepare their eulogy would be very unwise. On paper, the Bonderman/Jaret Wright pitching matchup would seem to benefit the Tigers, but look at Rogers vs. Yankees prior to last night. The lesson: anything can happen in playoff baseball. And usually does.

If the Tigers lose Game 4, then, are they dead?

Again, no. I wouldn't bet on them to win a Game 5 in New York, but that's just why they might. But I think the Tigers would be best served by letting it all hang out today. They do NOT want to go to New York for Game 5.

Where are the quotes after Game 3 that you promised?

My tape recorder ran out of battery power. No joke. But nothing I would have gathered could have possibly illuminated last night's game anymore than what occurred on the field. Game 3 will live forever in many fan's minds. Such an electric, incredible atmosphere in CoPa. Let's do it again this afternoon, shall we?


Blogger Big Al said...

I totally agree with you on the Gambler's performance. It may have been the best pitchrd game I've ever seen from a Tiger starter, especially when you factor in all the intangibles. And they were considerable...

2:42 PM  

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