Sunday, October 02, 2011

Burning Questions After Game 2 of the Tigers-Yankees ALDS

Burning Questions in the wake of the Tigers' 5-3 win over the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS:

What was the story of this game?

The Tigers' big boys showed up. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez each had clutch RBI hits in the sixth inning, stretching the Tigers lead to 4-0. Cabrera muscled a two-run HR to right field in the first inning. It's always huge to score first at Yankee Stadium, especially after the Tigers got routed in Game 1.

How about Max Scherzer?

What can you say? A no-hitter for 5.1 innings, and his start was just what the doctor ordered. Even more impressive was that it came on the road, where Scherzer has been less than brilliant.

Max did a great job of pounding the strike zone and keeping the Yankees hitters off kilter. What a breath of fresh air following an ugly Game 1.

Do you feel better about the Tigers' offense?

Yes and no. The two-out RBI single by Don Kelly in the ninth inning was encouraging, but after two games not too many bats have shown up. The Tigers need more from Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, especially. But it was good to see Cabrera get the team off to a good start after he was a non-factor in Game 1.

But a win is a win and the Tigers are going home, where they won 50 games this season.

Were you surprised to see Joaquin Benoit in the seventh inning?

Not really. These are the playoffs. Benoit has the stamina to pitch two innings, and if that's what Jim Leyland needed to bridge the gap between Scherzer and Jose Valverde, so be it. Regardless, Benoit gave the Tigers two good innings, despite surrendering the Curtis Granderson homer.

How about that ninth inning, with the rain and the almost rally?

Just another day at the office for Valverde, who entered the game in one of his notorious non-save situations.

The bomb by Nick Swisher didn't bother me, and neither did the triple by Jorge Posada. But the walks to Russell Martin and Granderson made things extra dicey.

What was your take on Avila's slip and fall on Granderson's foul popup?

That Brandon Inge should have called Avila off and made the play. TNT analyst Ron Darling---who's very good, by the way---correctly pointed that out. Once Inge saw Avila ambling dangerously close to the dugout and that rubber circle (where they hit fungos from, by tradition) with the Yankees logo on it, that was the time to take charge. As Darling said, the ball dropped mere feet from where Inge was standing.

How big of a win was this?

Huge. The winner of Game 2 in any best-of-five series is usually in good shape. In the Tigers' case, it means a 1-1 series with the best pitcher in baseball set to throw the next day---before his home crowd.

It was one of those games that, had the Tigers blown it, it would have been as bad of a loss as it was a gargantuan win---maybe more so.

Anything else you'd like to talk about?

Leyland started Magglio Ordonez---righty vs. righty---against Yankees starter Freddy Garcia partly due to Maggs' 16-for-50 career mark against Garcia.

Ordonez went 3-for-3, making him 19-for-53 (.358) against Garcia. Sometimes that stuff the computer spits out comes in handy.

The Tigers are in the driver's seat now, right?

It would seem so, but who can predict playoff baseball? The Yankees have lost six of their last eight games in Detroit, and the Tigers went 2-0 against them at Comerica Park in the 2006 ALDS.

So what?

All that goes out the window, but if the Tigers feel like that gives them a mental edge, then they should go with that notion. Anything you can do to feel good about yourself. Who knows? Maybe the Yankees don't relish two games in Detroit given their recent history there. Then again, maybe that gives them added incentive.

You just don't know.

But coming home 1-1 is a helluva lot better than being down 0-2.

(Come back here in the hours after every Tigers post-season game---played or not---to read me answer the "Burning Questions")

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