The Most Important Game

ALDS Games One & Two Live Chat
MLB announces start times for remainder of ALDS

The playoffs are such a different dynamic than the regular season. The regular season is this long marathon where you’ve got to think about the long-term, keeping people fresh for August and September and knowing when to take your foot off today’s gas for tomorrow’s commute. The playoffs are not like that though, everything has to focus on right here, right now because you don’t know what will happen next game, next inning, next batter.

“Tomorrow is big,” said Alex Rodriguez after Game Two. “Going back to when I first got here, we always thought that Game Three was the biggest. It’s almost like hitting; the 0-0 pitch is the most important, then the 1-1 pitch becomes the most important. Same goes for a series.”

When Joe Torre was managing, I remember hearing him say that he felt Game Two was the most important game of the series, which is why he always tried to line Andy Pettitte up for that start. The idea was that if you were down in the series, you could even it up. If you were up, you had a chance to really put your foot on the other team’s throat. Either way, A-Rod‘s theory and Torre’s theory are both wrong. The most important game is today’s game, regardless of what number game it is in the best-of-X series.

No one has any idea what will happen tomorrow or the next day. You might think you know based on the pitching matchups and whatnot, but you don’t. I promise you, you don’t. And I don’t either. No one does. That’s why planning and managing for tomorrow in a short series rather than focus on what’s happening at the moment can be a season killer. Saving your top bench bat for a ninth-inning pinch-hitting appearance rather than using him in the seventh, limiting your top reliever to three outs instead of five or six today so you have him again tomorrow … all prime examples of what not to do in the postseason. It’s all about right now, which is why October is so different than April through September.

Joe Girardi went with Luis Ayala in the ninth inning yesterday for that reason, because he was basically saving his top relievers for today (and tomorrow). I didn’t like it, but what’s done is done, and the Yankees are now in a real nice position going into Game Three. Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are very well rested, to the point where asking each guy to get six outs tonight would not be insane. Mariano Rivera, despite Saturday’s three-pitch appearance, is well rested as well, and I don’t see why he couldn’t get four or five outs if needed. Of course that luxury is born out of a poor process, which is bringing in Ayala yesterday. Girardi can’t control results, he can’t make guys execute pitches or hit line drives to the gaps, all he can do is put his players and his team in a position to succeed. He didn’t do that with Ayala yesterday, but the trickle down effect is that it (theoretically) helps the team today, in the most important game.

ALDS Games One & Two Live Chat
MLB announces start times for remainder of ALDS
  • Rockdog

    Mike, I totally agree with this. The playoffs are inherently SSS, so weird things happen all the time. This is also what makes them hard to predict. But it also means that you have to take advantage of every opportunity that you get. Maybe using Ayala didn’t make a difference, but it was a poor process decision, as you point out.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    great article, it did seem that girardi was managing for the future rather than that particular game, but it does mean the yanks best relievers will be fresher and probably more effective today (and tomorrow). no matter, no ayala today

    • JT

      Girardi’s first mistake was including Ayala on the roster in the first place. His second mistake, if he was trying to save his big guns, was to use Ayala instead of Hughes.

      • BJ

        Who would you have included instead? Ayala had a 1.64 ERA going into the final game of the season, he pitched well enough to deserve that spot on the postseason roster.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          Lol ERA.

        • Bill

          Ayala has the most misleading ERA I’ve seen in awhile. Dude is AWFUL. If you look at the breakdown of games pitched for him, most of them were blowouts. In the few close games he pitched in, he was awful. He allowed the walkoff to the Angels in September, and in the same month he allowed 6 runs in one inning to the Rays with the Yankees up 7-0 in the 162nd game. He has o business being on the roster.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      I’m not holding ym breath with no Ayala.

    • Rainbow Connection

      Or maybe they’ll be rusty, since they haven’t pitched in a while.

  • Jesse

    I know none of know what exactly is gonna happen, but here’s what I THINK will happen. CC out-duels Verlander 3-2, in game 4 A.J implodes and the Tigers win handily, or the game is close and Girardi manages a situation poorly. So, Game 5 back in the Bronx. Ivan Nova vs the almighty Doug Fister. I like my chances in that game.

  • Jorge

    I agree with you that we can’t predict what will happen today and tomorrow based on knowledge of pitching match-ups, etc.

    Along those lines, I don’t think we can predict that Robertson, Mo, and Soriano will be sharp and well rested today because of their long rest. I could just as easily see them being rusty. I obviously hope they’re not, but my point is that saving them for tomorrow when, indeed, the most important game is today (yesterday, it was yesterday) is quite boneheaded.

    • Dennis

      probably no Velverdie tonight which I think hurts us. I think we can hit him better than Benoit.

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        Benoit threw a ton of pitches too.

      • Jesse

        So if the game is say 4-3 Tigers and Leyland has used Al Alburquerque and Benoit in the 7th and 8th inning he won’t use his closer who is perfect in save opps? I find that really hard to believe.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          I hope he does.

          A-Rod 2009: Nathan, Fuentes, and Lidge.

          You are now aware.

          Prepare your anus, Valverde.

          • Bill

            Doug Fister will help him with the last part.

  • Tiny Tim

    Game 3 is the most important game. It’s for all the marbles. AJ won’t win a big game and Nova won’t lose a big game. This is it.

    • PaulF

      “AJ won’t win a big game and Nova won’t lose a big game.”

      The whole point of half of this post is that no, you don’t know this.

  • Yank The Frank

    Ayala gave up one run right? I don’t recall Ayala letting any inherited runners score. They lost by two. I don’t see how Ayala’s pitching factored in the loss.

    • Jorge

      It sets up the inning differently. If they are down 4-2 in the ninth, as opposed to 5-2, I would have sent in a pinch-runner for Martin to steal second, and then tie the game on outs. It did not cause the loss, but it factored in, I think.

      At the absolute very least, it is bad management – it tells Leyland he can easily outmanage Girardi (although, if Leyland is alive and awake, he already knows that).

      • Frank

        Jeter’s error and Girardi allowing Garcia to pitch to Cabrera and Kelly in the 6th, leading to the 3rd and 4th runs, were more critical mistakes than Ayala pitching the 9th. Too much is being made of that.

        • JimIsBored (Jim S)

          Jeter’s error was painful.

      • Jorge

        Ruh-roh. One site. Two Jorges, and this on would never pick apart a game like the one above is doing.

    • Jesse

      I think pinch-hitting Chavez for Gardner was a stupid idea. After the game Girardi said he thought Chavez could “pop one”. Yeah Eric Chavez who has a whopping 2 homers all year. Yeah don’t go to Jones or Montero who are much more able to “pop one”.

      • CP


        Chavez this year vs RHP: .255 .322 .365 .687
        Jones this year vs RHP: .172 .303 .406 .709

        Basically, there’s no difference between the two.

        • Jesse

          Still, Girardi’s reason why he wanted Chavez to hit was to “pop one”. He’s popped two, TWO, all year. Jones has popped 13.

          • CP

            Maybe by “pop one” he meant something other than hitting a HR?

            It’s possible, right?

            Or not.

            • Jesse

              Eh, I’m pretty sure “pop one” is a homer.
              The only other thing it could be is to pop out, but..

        • David N

          Except that Andruw is probably the best pure power hitter on the team. If you need someone to hit one out off the bench, he’s the guy.

  • Darren

    It’s fun talking about everything, but no one has any idea about anything. So many playoff series in just the last 15 years have taken totally unexpected turns from game to game, innining to inning and pitch to pitch. That’s what makes it fun. Weren’t we down 0-2 to the A’s? Then the flip play?

    Up against the Angels in 2002 and then our starting pitching got tanked.

    CC laid an an egg in Game 1 against the Rangers but we came back from 5-0 to win and as we all know, “That series was over!”

    CC can get bombed tonight and we can win. He can pitch great and we can lose. We can lose tonight and win the series and vice versa. Not that we don’t know this, but just a reminder that this is what makes baseball so much fun. (As John and Suzssyzn have reminded us so many times.)

    • Kostas

      The problem here is that CC must be flawless while Verlander has a margin for error. The Yankees line up is absent, save Cano and a few seeing eye singles.

      Either way, the season comes down to AJ which really just puts all the pressure on the Yankees.

      • Mike Axisa

        How does Verlander have margin for error? You’re completely ignoring that Rick Porcello sucks. Then again, you’ve never said anything rational on this site.

        • Kostas

          Thanks. I would expect you being in law school to understand facts or what you can prove means nothing, just as it does in a court. The rational is perception because it is tied to emotion and contains far more potency. The perception that Porcello sucks – as you stated – applies only until he pitches against the Yankees. Then, like all pitchers, suddenly he appears to be Cy Young.

          • JimIsBored (Jim S)

            This comment made no sense.

            If all pitchers appear to be Cy Young against the Yankees, we would not have scored the 2nd most runs in the league this year.

            Your perception is tainted by who you root for. Tigers fans right now are bemoaning the need for Porcello in game 4. Because he’s sucked, yes, SUCKED, this year, against worse competition. a 4.75 ERA in the central is awful.

            Although your comment about emotion and potency makes me believe you’re a troll looking for a reaction. If so, bravo.

            • Kostas

              Awesome. Now I am not only irrational on this site but a troll. Perfect.

              The comment does make sense. Every pitcher who “sucks” suddenly finds their best game when they pitch against the Yankees, especially in the playoffs. And quoting season ERA is the equivalent of saying the Yankees won 98 games, as though it means more than just giving them the AL East title.

              • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                Good Lord. You really do believe that logic has no place in this discussion. Stubbornly refusing to use facts in your argument counts you as a troll, yes.

                And just for shits and giggles, we destroyed Zach Britton this year, who “sucks”. There’s my illogical counter to your illogic.


          • tom

            Which is how the Yankees topped 800 runs this year.

            • Kostas

              That is great. They have scored 12 in the post season and are 1-1. So the 800 runs, like the 98 wins, meaningless.

              • Bill

                That’s still 6 runs per game. I’ll take that.

          • Mike Axisa

            Then, like all pitchers, suddenly he appears to be Cy Young.

            This would make sense if the Yankees didn’t score the second most runs in baseball. But I’m guessing your answer to that will be that they beat up on bad pitchers but can’t beat good pitching. Been there, heard that.

            And I’m not the one in law school.

            • Dave B

              I’m with you Mike – I’m only going to scan this site from now on during the playoffs. No, I wouldn’t have pitched Ayala, but in the infinite realm of the unknown Robertson could have been crushed and we know damn well Soriano could have been crushed. Odds? Last time I checked Ayala’s ERA was either sub 2.00 or close to it.

              At the end of the day, if the Yankees can’t solve Verlander or Porcello they’re cooked. Simple…have a beer and enjoy the game.

            • Kostas

              No they can beat good pitching. But their scoring the second most runs mean nothing in the playoffs because that number is spread out over 162 games, not a 5 game series.

              And, if your not in law school one of you is, but the comment still applies. It is not what you know or what you can prove but how you can sway the perception. If it was all factual, then the Yankees would clearly be the favorite to win the next two.

              • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                So then, we’re fine tonight against Verlander?

                • Kostas

                  Until he strikes out the side to start the game and then panic will erupt…or so I hear.

              • Mike Axisa

                If it was all factual, then the Yankees would clearly be the favorite to win the next two.

                They are.

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        “The problem here is that CC must be flawless while Verlander has a margin for error. The Yankees line up is absent, save Cano and a few seeing eye singles.”

        That’s not even true. Cabrera was the only one hitting the ball hard yesterday, minus a few hard hit ordonez singles. The 6th inning RBI’s came on seeing eye singles, which is all you think the Yankees had.

        Both pitchers have small margins for error, it’s the playoffs. Swishers had good at bats, Posada has hit the ball hard, Granderson had a home run and a walk in the late innings yesterday, Martin’s put together good at bats, and as annoying as Tex has been, you can’t make a mistake to him.

        The season doesn’t just come down to AJ. The rest of our team gets to show up too, and gets to his against Porcello. I wish people would look at the stats before they forfeit tomorrow’s game.

        • JimIsBored (Jim S)

          gets to hit*

        • Kostas

          Clearly you have far more faith in out line up than I do. The Yankees got pounded inside yesterday and did little to adjust. Their AB’s against a #3 pitcher, who they should have crushed, were weak.

          • JimIsBored (Jim S)

            Clearly I do.

            Because I realize that sometimes good lineups lose to good pitching, and that doesn’t change whether your lineup is good or not.

            Scherzer has a hell of an arm. Sometimes the other team outplays us, it’s not always a reflection on how awful we are.

  • Kostas

    If you want to talk mismanaging, ARod needs to be benched and Chavez or Nunez in his place. He is not a threat or even a concern in the line up right now and that hurts.

    Tex is another one but unfortuantely, his defense is an absolute necessity. I just wish he knew how to do something other than strike out or pop up.

    • Jesse

      He’s good at grounding out into the teeth of the shift.

      • Kostas

        You would be correct. He does that just to break up the pattern of k, pop up, k, pop up.

        Clearly he is a disappointment at the plate, on the downward side of his career.

        • Dave B

          Who would we have at 1st? Jorge? Chavez? Is everyone losing it?

          • JimIsBored (Jim S)


            • Dave B

              Can Brosius come out of retirement to play for A-Rod tonight or is there some crazy rule about retirees? Just brainstorming…

    • CP

      Why not just bat A-Rod 8th? That worked so well the last time the Yankees played the Tigers in the ALDS.

      • Adam

        Bring back Cody Ransom.

  • uncleargyle

    I actually remember Torree saying game 3 was the most important, which is why Mussina always pitched game 3. I think ur mis-remembering that about Andy Pettite….anyway, I agree w ur point 100%

    • Jesse

      Didn’t he normally use Mussina game 1 and Clemens game 3?

      • UncleArgyle

        Well, we know Moose pitched game three in 2001 against Oakland. But you could be right for other ALDS’s. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter. I just remember Torre saying “Game 3 is the biggest game in a 5 game series” several times over the years.

  • JWT

    I’m going to take a contrary position on AJB that will no doubt have people telling me I’m an idiot but… I think the guy is far more likely to pitch better than expected in G4 than he is to repeat his mid-season shenaningans. I think this gives him the ultimate opportunity to regain a bit of a legacy, and here’s saying that, pitching in Comerica, he does.

    • BJ

      I will be ecstatic if Burnett gives us nothing more than his last start: 7 innings, a couple homers given up, and a smattering of strikeouts here and there. I think he realizes the gravity of this situation. Rather than interpreting his recent quotes (“I’m just going to try to pitch until they take me out,” etc.) as apathy or defeatism, I hope that they’re a sign of him trying to play it cool and not let his nerves get to him, which has been his undoing all season long.

      • Bill

        Yea I agree. I think I remember him saying before that he tries to throw a no-hitter every game. Maybe it’s time to aim for something more realistic and play it cool like you said.

  • Alfred

    “So, Sabathia might be pitching to save the Yankees’ season, and who knows? A poor start could make the Yankees think twice about re-signing him if, as expected, he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent.”
    – Ken Rosenthal (

    Insane. Only the notion that, well, the Yankees would disregard 3 seasons + 2009 postseason of absolute elite performance in favor of a ‘mheh’ september and one stinker in the postseason. Who does he think we are? The Red Sox?

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      If you’ve been reading a lot of comments here last night/today, Rosenthal has either been posting under a lot of different handles or a lot of people agree with him.

      We have our fair share of batshit insane fans too. Thankfully that doesn’t carry over to the front office, for the most part.

      • Alfred

        That’s exactly my point, of course there are fans clamoring for everything, but the Yankees FO will never let Sabathia go. There is just no cause for it, even if he doens’t make it out of the first inning tonight. Such a notion on ESPN, well ok, but I kind-of respected Rosenthal.

    • Jesse

      Oh wow. I’ve lost all respect for Rosenthal after that idiotic report. My God is he batshit insane? Or is he batshit insane?

      • Kostas

        He has never deserved respect. He is a typical Fox hyperoblic, Yankee hating reporter looking for Rick Reilly or Tom Verducci payout by spewing crap that sells to the lowest common denomenator.

      • Yank The Frank

        If I had to guess I’d say batshit insane. His bow ties are cutting off his oxygen to his brain.

  • Brooklyn Ed

    Jose Valverde told reporters after Sunday’s Game 2 victory in New York that the ALDS “is over.”
    “Oh yeah,” said the Tiger closer, after helping his club even the five-game series. “It’s over already. Verlander has it [Monday]. Next day, have the celebration in Detroit — 100 percent. The Yankees have a good team, but I think that’s it for them.” Valverde made the remarks in a joking manner, but that won’t matter to the Yankees or their fans.



    Comments like that made me wish, he blew it yesterday.

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      His blown save is coming, I just hope we’re the team that gets to do it. Or, you know, he doesn’t see another inning because the Yankees are winning big in the next 2 games.

    • David N

      Wouldn’t have been a blown save yesterday – his team was up by too many runs.

      Which is the height of idiocy, if you ask me – if you come into the 9th with a lead (whether it’s 1 run or 10 runs), and blow it, that should count as a blown save.

  • UncleArgyle

    My favorite part was his implication that Procello is a better bet tomorrow because his SEPTEMBER ERA is lower than AJ Burnetts SEASON ERA. Nice logic there Ken.

  • Reg

    Any Chances of seeing montero tonight?

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      yes, he’ll be in the dugout

      • ArchStanton

        He wasn’t a good enough bet to “pop one” last night. That drives me insane.

      • Monteroisdinero


  • Jeff Karstens, Male Model

    Nothing calms the emotions like Dan Patrick and Mitch Williams in agreement that the Tigers are winning this series and that CC will opt out and choose not to return to the Yanks next year.

    • Kostas

      Where do they think he will go and get the kind of money he wants? Boston?

  • Kibbitty

    Why would we save the bullpen for CC’s game? That is so counter-intuitive.

    The argument of “saving his big arms for tomorrow” is stupid, because CC has a decent chance of going into the 8th/9th tonight. We may not need them tonight, and if they’re not rusty already…

    In light of that, Girardi had NO LOGICAL reason to pitch Ayala. None.
    And that run was huge.

  • Peepee Hands

    Game 3 becomes is the most important game, until they lose. Then game 4 becomes the most important game. If they lose game 4, then, in a 7 game series, game 5 becomes the most important game. Ask the 2004 Red Sox what game is most important.

  • Tim

    Just think of it this way – when the Yankees win tonight vs. Verlander, and ESPN, MLBN, Rosenthal, and every other MSM baseball outlets collapses on itself, it will be a doubly joyous occasion.

    Either that, or it will start the talk about how the Yankees won’t be able to beat Texas or TB.

  • umbrelladoc


    Under normal circumstances, I would agree with you. You usually manage for today, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. If there was a day off tomorrow, you would have seen Rivera in the 9th. I was thinking of using Hughes, to get him acclimated out of the bullpen. The problem is CC might be not be the usual CC because he is going on 2 days rest after the rain delay. Hughes is now the long man, because Burnett is forced to start and you might need multiple innings from him and So/Ro/Mo in game 4.

    • Kibbitty

      Except we had better odds of coming back last night than we do AJ keeping tomorrow competitive enough to need them. Either way, as long as you go with DRob or Soriano last night, noone is going out there more than 2 days in a row.

      It’s the playoffs. Win today today, worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        “Except we had better odds of coming back last night than we do AJ keeping tomorrow competitive enough to need them.”

        As much as I hated using Ayala last night, this just isn’t true. At WORST, AJ vs Porcello is a 40/60 affair. Porcello has been awful. We had <1% chance to come back last night, at the start of the bottom of the 9th.

        I do agree though, to win today, worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

  • Karl Krawfid

    Just win.

    • Kibbitty


  • Tiny Tim

    If we win CC vs Verlander tonight the MSM will say well that rain delay sure cost the Tigers didn’t it? And if we lose there will be none of that talk, it will be Verlander dominated and the Tigers overcame the adversity of the weather.

  • David K.

    Mike, you bring up a lot of good points but I just didn’t feel good about this series from the get go. Maybe it’s because C.C. has not been pitching particularly well for the last month or so. Maybe it’s because our left side infield defense has been very erratic of late. Or perhaps because the Tigers seem to be streaking right now. Definitely the idea of A.J. Burnett starting Game 4 is enough to make me puke. Then the fact that Scherzer shut us down so easily, it makes you think Verlander and Porcello will do the same thing. I’ve been a diehard Yankee fan since 1981 and don’t want to sound like a paranoid case because I’ve pretty much seen it all. But I’d say we’ll be very fortunate to we come back to New York for Game 5.

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      But I’d say we’ll the tigers will be very fortunate to come back to New York for Game 5.

      We play today, we win today, das it.

  • Jorge (needs a new name)

    It is fascinating how BOTH teams are in the same situation in feeling that today’s the must-win. If you can’t win that one game where your ace is on the mound, it gets a lot harder from there.

    ……which really makes it too bad that the Yanks are going to shove a Cy Young Award up Verlander’s ass tonight.

  • JT

    Good post. Joe Torre managed the Yanks out of a Game 5 ALCS-clinching victory in 2004 by not quickly going to Mo when Tom Gordon faltered in the 8th inning.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    I was watching catching hell last night and it was interesting to see cabrera as a 20 year old raking against the cubs, i think 2003 was the last team he was in the postseason. let’s hope montero can do his best miguel cabrera impression these next few 10-17 games

    • Ricky

      If they make it that far

  • OMG

    Justin Verlander’s winning pct. at home — .713 (57-23). That’s the highest among all active pitchers with at least 50 decisions

  • Doogie

    Trickle down “effect” (not “affect”) – sorry, this is the English major in me…

    • glue gagger

      youre a douchebag and i knew right away from your name

    • Rainbow Connection

      Give Axisa a break. He’s doing all the heavy lifting on this site. Workin’ his ass off for us.

  • Rainbow Connection

    Jeter could very well be responsible for Game Two and Four losses (since he convinced the team to sign Burnett).