Sunday, October 08, 2006

Burning Questions: ALDS Game 4

ALDS Game 4
Burning Questions

What happened to Yankees in four? What happened to the Yankees, period?

Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Tigers had more of it, as the more accurate experts correctly pointed out last week, and so they are moving on while the Yanks are going back to the Bronx.

The Yankees' impatience yesterday against Jeremy Bonderman might on first glance seem foolhearty, but Bonderman had thrown 29 of his first 35 pitches for strikes. Hard to be patient when the guy on the mound is begrudgingly throwing balls.

So what was the turning point of the series?

Probably Curtis Granderson's triple in Game 2 off Mike Mussina. That may seem like an obvious choice, because it broke a 3 to 3 tie and provided the Tigers with their eventual margin of victory. But sometimes you have to choose the obvious. It was the turning point because it came off an 0-2 pitch, and Grandy struck out 174 times during the regular season. Some probably thought he'd whiff here, too, but instead he whacked a triple that drove in the winning run in the seventh inning. The Tigers winning that game, I believe, gave them the confidence they needed to finish the Yankees off in Detroit.

Any final words about Alex Rodriguez?

Well, as I said yesterday, he became one of the least dangerous Yankees hitters because he's a mess upstairs. He showed class in his postgame interview, standing bravely in front of reporters, maintaining his desire to stay in New York. But he clearly was unfairly targeted as being the lone goat of this series, when the truth was that only two Yankees truly showed up: Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. The rest of 'em were horse feathers.

Joe Torre almost broke down during his postgame presser. What's up, do you think?

This series loss, I believe, hurt him as much as any other, if not more so. A couple of reasons for that: his team was heavily favored; and the way in which his club was dominated, I think, is giving him pause about how much the Yankees have left with this current cast. Plus, we're talking six straight years of postseason disappointment here. This may have been the straw that broke George Steinbrenner's back. Stay tuned.

If Kenny Rogers' performance in Game 3 was the best you've seen in Detroit, then what about Bonderman in Game 4?

Just as brilliant. It's hard to put one above the other, because of the intangibles surrounding each, but I'd put either one of them at #1 and the other at #1A. Bonderman had only thrown 35 pitches in the fifth inning. That's stupid. He was perfect through five. For once, he didn't blow a big lead his ballclub gave him. The amount of times he had Yankees hitters flailing away at his hard slider were too numerous to count. Bravo.

Magglio Ordonez woke up, and Pudge Rodriguex had two more RBI. Good sign, right?

Oh, absolutely. The Tigers, unlike all their counterparts in the Central Division, lack that real beast bat in the middle of the lineup. So, they have to rely on timely hits and moving runners along, as opposed to waiting for the three-run homer. Ordonez' homerun yesterday set the tone, and Pudge's RBI single up the middle was prototypical. For all the hype about Granderson and Craig Monroe and Carlos Guillen, etc., the Tigers won't go much further if Ordonez and Rodriguez go into any long slumbers.

How about the Tigers carrying Jim Leyland off the field?

Beautiful. That's what sports and the human condition are all about. It took me by surprise, but I loved it.

And the Tigers coming back onto the field to share champagne with the fans?

Loved it, too. It may have been a little over the top, considering it was only the ALDS, but I think some of that was due to the team blowing the Central title last weekend, robbing the home fans of a celebration that they were sure was going to happen. It was like the players said, "Here's to make up for last weekend!"

Derek Jeter said the games are played on the field, not paper. Great example here, huh?

You bet. Hardly anyone picked the Tigers, except my friend Lee Panas at Detroit Tiger Tales, who picked the Tigers in five. His reason? Pitching, of course. But Jeter was right. He bristled when a reporter said, "Who could have picked you guys being outscored 14 to 3 here?" Basically, he said that's why they don't just look at a lineup and hand out trophies. And if any team knows about playoff disappointment lately, it's the Yankees.

So what about a quick look ahead to the ALCS and the A's?

Break out that old 1972 16mm film of the '72 Tigers/A's ALCS. How much you wanna bet some of that footage will be broken out by Fox sometime this week?

But seriously, this should be a fun series. Two relatively young, exciting teams with great pitching on both sides. And isn't it amazing what Frank Thomas did this season? I figured he was through when the White Sox severed their ties. Talk about "He who laughs last..."


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