ALDS Game Five: Tigers @ Yankees

Jose Valverde said the series wouldn’t get back to New York after Game Two. He was wrong. The Yankees bludgeoned the Tigers pitching staff in Game Four on Tuesday night, ensuring that the ALDS would come back home to the Bronx for the deciding Game Five. Someone’s season will end tonight. There will be heroes and there will be goats.

Ivan Nova is making the biggest start of his life tonight, one that will help determine if the Yankees will get a chance to exact revenge against the Rangers in the ALCS, or if they’ll head home for an early winter. He pitched well in “relief” in Game One, holding the Tigers scoreless through six-plus innings before some Luis Ayala-induced inherited runner funny business. The Yankees got to Doug Fister in that game, a pitcher they once drafted, tagging him for more earned runs (six) than he’d allowed in his final seven regular season starts combined. Here’ are the lineup Nova and Fister will be facing…

Detroit Tigers
Austin Jackson, CF
Don Kelly, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Alex Avila, C
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Ramon Santiago, 2B

Doug Fister, SP

New York Yankees
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

Ivan Nova, SP

It’s chilly here in New York, but the sky is clear. There won’t be any rain, unlike the first three days they spent in the Bronx. The game starts at 8:07pm ET (not 8:37!) and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Site Note: Ben, Joe, and I are at the game, so I have spillover threads scheduled to publish at 9, 10, and 11pm ET. Please use them accordingly to keep the site running smooth.

UPDATE: Sabathia available in Game Five, but not Verlander

Update (Oct. 6th): You can rest easy now, Verlander will in fact not be available tonight. He threw a total of 56 pitches during his between-start bullpen session this afternoon. Max Scherzer, who shut the Yankees down in Game Two, is available in relief tonight, however.

Original Post (Oct. 5th): Via George King, CC Sabathia will be ready to go out of the bullpen in Game Five if needed. “It’s my bullpen day, so I will be ready to go,” said Sabathia. Remember, Sabathia was available in relief in Game Six of the ALCS last year, but Joe Girardi never gave him the ball. Being ready is one thing, being used is another. I think the bullpen is deep enough and rested enough that CC won’t be needed unless it goes crazy extra innings, or something.

As for Justin Verlander, he will be ready to pitch in relief tomorrow night as well, but Jim Leyland insists he won’t use him. “I wouldn’t do anything foolish,” said Leyland. “I try not to do anything foolish with any of my pitchers, let alone an arm like that.”

Jorge has done his part

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Jorge Posada was a weight around the 2011 Yankees’ neck. Assigned the role of full-time DH, Jorge found himself in uncharted territory. While he’d DHed plenty in the past, and did it frequently in the 2010 season, it was nonetheless a huge change for him. Many players talk about how tough it is to play only half the game. Imagine how a catcher must feel in that situation. He goes from being involved in every play on the defensive side to being involved in none. Whether it was his role or his age, he produced below average numbers this season.

Once the Yankees figured out that holding him out against left-handed pitching would help mitigate the damage, things got better. On the season he produced 9.2 runs above average while batting lefty. Problem is, that’s not exactly a quality number for a DH. Worse, he produced -10.4 runs above average against lefties. Hence, net negative. His season ended on a sour note, too, as he went 0 for his last 11, lowering his average to .235 and his SLG below the .400 mark.

And yet Joe Girardi still declared him the DH against right-handed pitchers for the postseason. Against Detroit in the ALDS that meant every game, since Detroit brought along four right-handed starters. It felt like an odd decision, since it reduced Jesus Montero‘s role. Just before his debut, a Yankees exec proclaimed that Montero would be the team’s best DH option for the postseason. He seemed to prove that throughout September, producing a .421 wOBA in his 69 PA. That apparently was not enough to convince the Yankees’ brass.

Throughout the first four games of the postseason, Jorge has done nothing but vindicate the Yankees’ decision to stick with him. He has reached base in nine of his 15 PA, rapping a triple and scoring four runs along the way. He has accumulated .256 WPA in those games, and hasn’t been in the negatives for any game. In Game 2 he was central in a comeback attempt, producing a team-leading .143 WPA and following up Nick Swisher‘s ninth-inning homer with the aforementioned triple. If the Yankees had pulled out that game and closed out the series on Tuesday, there’s a chance that Posada could have been named MVP.

That’s still a possibility, of course. With a big Game 5 Jorge could finish off his mastery of the Tigers and drive the Yankees to the ALCS. But the Yankees shouldn’t have to lean on Posada once again. He has already done far more than was expected of him. It’s time for the big guns to step up and finish this one off. That means Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher. Jorge has carried all three on his back for the past four games, and that kind of heavy lifting will tire out even a peak athlete, never mind a 40-year-old.

To close this on a high note, there’s nothing to do but praise Jorge. He has come up big at a time when confidence in him has faded. Maybe he’ll continue that into tonight and beyond, but no one should expect it. Instead, it’s time to repay Jorge’s deeds. He set them up for a Game 5 showdown. His teammates can finish the job.