ALCS Game Four Thread: Yankees @ Tigers

Well, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan so far. The pitching staff owns a 2.25 ERA in eight playoff game,s but the Yankees only have three wins because they’ve just stopped hitting. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson … you name it and they’ve stopped hitting. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Raul Ibanez, this team would have been dead in the water a week ago.

I don’t expect the Yankees to mount a historic comeback from a three games to none deficit in the ALCS, but I’m very open to being surprised. I just hope they avoid a sweep tonight and make the Tigers sweat a little bit. Put a little scare into Detroit that forces them to maybe ride their pitchers a little harder than they’d like, maybe even force them to travel and play another game in Yankee Stadium. That would be sweet. Let’s just worry about this one and enjoy what will likely be CC Sabathia‘s final start of the year. Here are your starting lineups…

New York Yankees
LF Ichiro Suzuki
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
CF Brett Gardner
SS Eduardo Nunez

LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38)

Detroit Tigers
CF Austin Jackson
2B Omar Infante
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
RR Avisail Garcia
C  Gerald Laird

RHP Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74)

It’s surprisingly warm in Detroit, but there is the threat of rain and we might see a weather delay. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Ticket Update: If you’re optimistic and want to catch a future game in this series, either in New York or Detroit, make sure you check out RAB Tickets for some last minute deals.

Update (7:55pm): The game will officially start in a delay due to incoming bad weather. No word on a start time yet.

Justin Thomas elects free agency

Via Matt Eddy: Left-hander Justin Thomas has elected free agency after the Yankees outrighted him to Triple-A two weeks ago. He had been designated for assignment last month to clear 40-man roster space for David Aardsma. The 28-year-old Thomas allowed three runs in three innings as a September call-up after spending most of the season in Triple-A. The Yankees originally claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox way back in May.

ALCS Pitching Preview: Max Scherzer

The season is officially on the line tonight, as the Yankees are one loss away from an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Tigers in the ALCS. CC Sabathia will be on the mound on regular rest and that’s exactly who the Bombers want out there, but pitching hasn’t been the problem. The hitting has been, and tonight the batters will see hard-throwing right-hander Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, 28, went to the Tigers in the trade that brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, and he’s shaken off concerns about his durability by throwing at least 185 innings in each of the last three seasons. He’s got a little A.J. Burnett in him in the sense that he’s enigmatic and is more hittable than his stuff indicates he should be, but Scherzer is still pretty good. He just happens to be the fourth best starting pitcher in his own rotation.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str
Apr 29 DET @ NYY L,2-6 L(1-3) 4.2 7 3 3 7 4 1 0 7.77 28 119 62
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/17/2012.

Just the one ugly start back in April, that’s it. Andruw Jones went 2-for-2 with a homer and a walk off the bench in that game, that’s how long ago it was. Those seven walks are a career-high for Scherzer, who struggled big time in April before pitching very well the rest of the season. Despite only the one meeting this year, both sides are certainly familiar with each other though after the ALDS last season and various regular season matchups (four total, to be exact) since the trade that brought Scherzer to the AL.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Scherzer is a three-pitch pitcher who acts like two two-pitch pitchers. Right-handers get the fastball and slider while lefties get the fastball and changeup. That’s pretty much it, he’s very straight forward. The fastball usually sits comfortably in the mid-90s, but Scherzer has been battling some shoulder fatigue lately and he’s been sitting the low-90s more often than not. We really don’t know how much that will help the hitters if it continues tonight, but I can’t imagine it’s a bad thing for the Yankees.

Performance & Results

TBF wOBA FIP K% BB% GB% FB% LD% HR/FB%
vs. RHB 351 0.258 2.52 34.8% 4.0% 37.9% 44.2% 18.0% 13.2%
vs. LHB 436 0.360 3.93 25.0% 10.6% 35.4% 39.4% 25.5% 10.2%

Unlike Justin Verlander yesterday, Scherzer has a significant platoon split. The guy eats up right-handers but has his struggled against left-handers because he doesn’t strike them out nearly as often and will walk them more frequently as well. It’s worth noting that some poor ball-in-play luck (.378 vs. 273 BABIP) plays a part in the huge split.

Regardless, it goes without saying that the Yankees have to take advantage of that, perhaps by again sitting Alex Rodriguez in favor of Eric Chavez even though neither guy is really hitting. Joe Girardi could trot out a lineup with only two true right-handed hitters — Russell Martin and Eduardo Nunez/Jayson Nix — and those guys could easily bat eighth and ninth. Last night’s ninth inning mini-rally was encouraging if nothing else, and today the Yankees have a chance to build on it and actually generate some offense by stacking lefties against Scherzer.

Cashman shoots down A-Rod/Marlins trade rumor

4:49pm: For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman says the two clubs had a “lighthearted exchange” about A-Rod back in late-April but have not talked since. Even if they were talking, the Yankees would obviously deny it anyway.

4:30pm: Via Bryan Hoch: Brian Cashman said rumors that the Yankees are talking to the Marlins about a trade involving Alex Rodriguez are “not true.” Reports indicated that New York would be willing to eat virtually all of $114M left on A-Rod’s deal to facilitate a trade, and one variation had Heath Bell coming in return.

The Yankees will probably look to shed Alex this offseason but he does have full veto power thanks to his ten-and-five no-trade protection, so it won’t be easy. He did grow up in Miami and makes his offseason home there though, so who knows. I just wouldn’t hold my breath. At some point eating so much money is counterproductive since the Yankees will need to find a replacement third baseman and all that money will still count towards the luxury tax.

Update: Jeter to have surgery on fractured ankle this weekend

Tuesday: Jeter will have surgery on the ankle this Saturday, the team announced. The recovery time is expected to be 4-5 months, which means he should be ready for Spring Training. Not a guarantee though.

Monday: Via Wally Matthews: Derek Jeter will “likely” need surgery to repair ligament damage in his fractured left ankle. The Cap’n underwent a battery of tests to confirm the break yesterday, and now he’ll head to North Carolina to see Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist who’s done work for the NFL.

The original diagnosis said the 38-year-old Jeter would be facing a three-month recovery period, though it’s unclear how surgery would affect that. Joe Girardi also indicated that his shortstop received a cortisone shot in the ankle a few weeks ago while playing through a bone bruise. It’s unclear if playing through the bone bruise for basically all of September contributed to the break, but it sure seems it could be related.

Blue Jays claim Cory Wade off waivers from Yankees

The Blue Jays have claimed Cory Wade off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. New York designated the right-hander for assignment last week. The 29-year-old Wade pitched very well for the Yankees after being signed off the scrap heap last season up until about his past June, when everything fell apart. I was a fan and hoped he would be able to figure things out, but alas.

The need for more speed

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Joe Girardi has had to tinker with his lineup far more than I’m sure he would have liked this postseason, and it was all out of necessity. Alex Rodriguez simply has not hit right-handers at all, and the duo of Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher went from middle of the order thumpers to bottom of the lineup automatic outs. He inserted both Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez into the starting lineup last night and was mostly rewarded, as Nunez drove in their only run with a solo homer while Gardner had some of the team’s best and longest at-bats. The Yankees still lost though.

I expect tonight’s lineup to be very similar to last night’s with maybe one or two minor changes. Maybe Swisher is back in the starting lineup and Granderson sits, something like that. Either way, I think the stretch of 9-1-2 hitters — Nunez, Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki — will remain the same to give the team some speed on the bases. They didn’t use that speed at all last night though, as Ichiro singled twice and didn’t bother to steal second either time even though the one thing Justin Verlander will let an offense do is steal a base. I understand that every base-runner is precious when you’re struggling to score, but I felt the situation called for pushing the envelope.

Max Scherzer is a bit more stingy with the stolen base than Verlander, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the speed game should come out of the playbook. Frankly it doesn’t make sense to play Nunez and Gardner and not have them try to steal when they do reach base. Obviously the whole getting on-base thing is quite important, but Scherzer hasn’t been himself lately and is probably the least effective Tigers’ starter right now. If last night’s ninth inning mini-rally is going to carry over to today, it will be because Detroit’s starter is still dealing with some nagging shoulder issues and can’t reach back for 95+ when in a jam.

Desperate times do call for desperate measures, and Girardi did sorta take those measures with his lineup moves last night. If he keeps Nunez and Gardner in the lineup for Game Four, even if they don’t bat back-to-back, the club has to try to take advantage of their speed. I’m surprised they have yet to lay a bunt down towards Miguel Cabrera at third or even Prince Fielder at first, but if Scherzer is pitching well the first time through the order it might be a shot in the middle innings. The Yankees have to try to generate some offense in different ways tonight and hopefully going forward later in the series, and taking advantage of the fresh legs (both Nunez and Gardner missed a big chunk of time with injury this season) could be one way to do it.