Friday, October 07, 2011

Burning Questions After Game 5 of the Tigers-Yankees ALDS

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

Did you ever think three runs would be good enough in Yankee Stadium?

Absolutely not, and what's worse, the Tigers left some runners on base early, then couldn't even get a base runner late. It just had the makings of a come-from-ahead loss.

How much of a relief was it to score two runs in the first inning?

It was great---for about an inning. Then the Tigers had a runner on third base with less than two outs in the second and didn't score. From that moment on you just knew that this would be no laugher---the Tigers would have to gut one out.

Speaking of the first inning, how about DON KELLY?

What's the Michigan Lottery slogan? "Play a hunch, win a bunch"?

That was Jim Leyland with Donny Kelly tonight. In the post game presser, Leyland said that "sometimes these things just work out." Well, yeah, but he also knows that Kelly has been swinging a clutch, if inconsistent bat since Labor Day. Kelly's average may not be great, but he seems to get hits when they matter most.

Don't forget---Kelly hit a homer in Oakland the night the Tigers clinched the division, too.

Besides, Wilson Betemit looked God awful in Game 4 and with a right-hander starting (Ivan Nova), Leyland was unlikely to start Brandon Inge at third base. As for hitting Kelly second, that may have been the hunch part. That, and Ramon Santiago belongs at the no. 9 spot, anyway.

Surprised that Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Nova after two innings?

Of course, and I'm not sure I buy the "his forearm was tight" thing, not that it really matters.

I think Girardi wanted to empty his well-rested bullpen before the game started and give the Tigers a lot of different looks. But that's my take in retrospect. So, yeah, I was very surprised when I saw Phil Hughes take the mound in the third inning.

And doesn't Girardi know what Victor Martinez's batting average is this season after a Miguel Cabrera walk? Yet Girardi walked Miggy in the fifth inning anyway.

But still the right move. As good as V-Mart has been this season, the old adage is that you never let the other team's best player beat you, if you can prevent it.

Look at it from the other side: had Girardi pitched to Cabrera with first base open, and Miggy burned him, Girardi would never have lived it down.

Sure, V-Mart came through (again) with what ended up being the winning RBI, but you NEVER let an MVP candidate hit with first base open.

The Yankees loaded the bases twice with only one out and only came away with one run, on Joaquin Benoit's walk of Mark Teixeira. Think they'll be talking about that in New York for awhile?

As well they should talk about it. The Yankees don't leave runs on the field like that very often, especially at home.

This game sort of reminded me of an underdog NHL team, on the road, trying to sit on a one-goal lead for the entire third period.

The Tigers played dump and chase with the Yankees from the sixth inning on. The Tigers at-bats were short and the Yankees would come back with pressure-packed half innings. It was unreal.

What can you say about Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner?

You mean besides, "Good riddance!"?

Posada was amazing, and so was Gardner. That's how it goes sometimes in the playoffs. It wasn't Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez who were poison---it was Posada and Gardner.

The Yankees got all sorts of infield hits in this series, and would have had another if Posada didn't have square wheels. The Tigers finally got him out in the nick of time, but the pesky Gardner slapped one more hit in the eighth and was moving on Derek Jeter's fly out to end the inning.

That ball that Jeter hit would have been a routine out at Comerica Park, right?

A routine fly ball just about ANYWHERE.

That new Yankee Stadium is ridiculous in right field, but so was old Tiger Stadium, I suppose, with that 10-foot overhang.

But Jeter hardly smacked the ball, yet it took Don Kelly to the warning track.

How ironic that Jose Valverde had a 1-2-3 ninth against Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez, huh?

Yeah, because Papa Grande catches grief for not having very many stress-free saves.

The ball that Cano hit to center field went as far as I've seen any broken bat hit go; I was sure it was destined to drop in for a hit.

The key, of course, was getting Granderson out, and after that it just felt like everything would be OK, even with Cano coming up.

As for A-Rod, I wasn't worried at all. Just as in 2006, Rodriguez was a non-factor the entire series. I'd have been more worried to see Posada or Gardner up in that situation.

So did you think Valverde was going to strike A-Rod out to end the game?

I certainly wasn't surprised.

OK, the series is over. What was the key to the Tigers' victory?

Pitching in the clutch. The Yankees' two victories were blowouts, and the Tigers' three wins were by a combined four runs. That tells me that the Tigers pitchers made more big pitches than the Yankees did.

Game 5 was a perfect example. First Doug Fister---who was pretty good, by the way---then Benoit wiggle out of bases loaded jams with just one run scored total. Max Scherzer makes a rare relief appearance and is effective. And Valverde does what he does best---close games.

Real quick: right decision NOT to use Justin Verlander out of the bullpen?

Yes. If he pitches he can't throw Game 1 of the ALCS. And the Tigers didn't need him, frankly, with Scherzer available and rested more.

Have you given any thought to the Texas Rangers yet?

Only this one: the player who scares me the most isn't Josh Hamilton; it's catcher Mike Napoli, who had a monster year and followed it with a good series against Tampa Bay.

Worried about Delmon Young's tweaked oblique?

That sounds cute, actually.

But seriously? Sure; Game 1 is Saturday. But he told FSD Detroit's John Keating that he expects to give it a shot. So we'll see

Who's your series MVP?

Young. He had three homers and two of them mattered: the solo shot to regain the Tigers' lead in Game 3, and the follow-up to Kelly's dinger in the first that gave the Tigers a two-run lead early.

Ready to do this all over again come Saturday?

Do I have a choice?

Didn't think so. See ya in the ALCS.

(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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