Archive for 2012 ALCS
The Yankees are really trying to disprove this whole “pitching win championships” thing. They got another fantastic performance from the pitching staff in Game Three, but yet again the offense didn’t muster much of anything until it was too little, too late. The Yankees are down three games to none in the best-of-seven ALCS and are just one more loss from the end of their season.
Ninth Inning Rally
Justin Verlander threw 132 pitches in Game Three and I think only the final 17 were stressful. He held the Yankees to two base-runners — two ground ball singles by Ichiro Suzuki — in the first eight innings and was more efficient than overpowering. Verlander went to eight three-ball counts (28 total batters faced), which is an awful lot, but he also didn’t walk anyone. He struck out just three, only got eight ground balls (22 ball-in-play outs), and I counted just two tough defensive plays by Detroit. Very easy outing for Verlander, at least until the ninth inning.
With the bullpen a mess, manager Jim Leyland stuck with his ace right-hander for the final three outs even though his pitch count was over 110. Eduardo Nunez led the inning off and worked a real hard at-bat, fouling off six pitches before hitting a solo homer to left on the ninth pitch of the encounter (a hanging curveball). It was, by far, the team’s hardest hit ball of the night. In fact, you can argue that their second hardest hit ball was a foul ball down the left field line earlier in the at-bat. Brett Gardner followed Nunez by fouling off four pitches as part of an eight-pitch at-bat before grounding out. That ended the night for Verlander.
Leyland went to former Yankee Phil Coke against various left-handers, and he surrendered two two-out singles (Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano) to put the tying run in scoring position and bring Raul Ibanez to the plate. Joe Girardi‘s options at this point were Ibanez against Coke or either Nick Swisher or Alex Rodriguez against Joaquin Benoit, and the skipper stuck with Ibanez. I would have done the same thing despite his general inability to hit southpaws just because he’s been out of this world clutch these last few weeks. Raul worked the count full and fouled off the sixth pitch of the at-bat before swinging over a slider for strike three and the 27th out. Coke deserves some credit, it was a great slider.
Assuming the Yankees do not make a historic comeback, Phil Hughes will end his season at 201 total innings and with a stiff back. He exited Game Three after three innings and 61 pitches, but not before Delmon Young hit a hanging two-strike curveball out of the park to left field for a solo homer. He’s been killing the Yankees in the postseason for two years now, no reason to expect it to stop anytime soon.
Anyway, Hughes walked three while striking out just one in those three innings, pitching out of jams seemingly all night. The pitching line — 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K — looks a little better than he actually pitched, and it could have easily been four or five runs had the Tigers picked up some timely hits. Joe Girardi said after the game that they’ll re-evaluate Hughes tomorrow before deciding whether or not to take him off the ALCS roster, which would automatically disqualify him from the World Series roster should the Yankees actually make that historic comeback. Not a great night for Phil, but he did battle and the effort is always appreciated.
It’s a good thing Monday was an off-day, because Girardi had to go deep into his bullpen following the short start by Hughes. The first guy out of the bullpen was David Phelps — he inherited an 0-2 count on Jhonny Peralta — who completed the fourth inning before allowing an unearned run in the fifth. Eric Chavez booted a hard-hit ground ball before Miguel Cabrera clubbed a double into the right-center field gap, accounting for the Tigers’ second and eventual game-winning run. I was a bit surprised Girardi didn’t go to Derek Lowe in that spot, but I guess he didn’t want the ground ball guy in there while Nunez was playing short.
Clay Rapada replaced Phelps and retired the two left-handed hitters he faced with an intentional walk sandwiched in. Cody Eppley took over, finished up the fifth, then put two men on-base with one out in the sixth. Boone Logan replaced him and allowed a single to pinch-hitter and the right-handed Avisail Garcia — Garcia is now 3-for-3 off Logan in the series — before escaping the bases loaded jam with a 5-4-3 double play from Cabrera. I have to admit that I assumed the worst when I saw Logan was going to face Miggy with the bases juiced, but he got the ground ball and Chavez started the twin-killing with a nifty backhand pick.
Boone remained in the game to throw a perfect seventh as well as retire the first two men in the eighth, his longest outing (2.1 innings) since throwing 2.2 innings against the Phillies back in June 2010. Joba Chamberlain stepped in to wrap up the inning, so all told six pitchers allowed just two runs (one earned) in eight innings on seven hits and five walks (one intentional). They only struck out three, but the pitching staff definitely gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. The Yankees have gotten a 2.25 ERA out of pitching staff and only have three wins in eight playoff games to show for it. Gross.
Cano’s ninth inning opposite field single ended an ugly 0-for-29 stretch that was the longest single-season hitless streak in playoff history. Ichiro had the two ground ball singles but didn’t steal second either time, which was quite annoying. I thought he had a chance for a Johnny Damon-esque double steal in the seventh since the Tigers were playing the big shift on Teixeira. The one thing Verlander will let you do is steal a base, and the Yankees didn’t take advantage of it.
The Bombers sent 32 hitters to the plate and I counted just seven “good at-bats” (by my completely arbitrary definition) — Ibanez in the second (eight pitches), Gardner in fourth (nine pitches), Ibanez in the seventh (seven pitches), Nunez in the ninth (nine pitches), Gardner in the ninth (eight pitches), Teixeira in the ninth (seven pitches), and Ibanez in the ninth (seven pitches). Seven “good out-bats” out of 32 total plate appearances isn’t good enough, especially when three came from the same guy.
Nunez’s ninth inning homer kept the Yankees from getting shut out in back-to-back playoff games for the first time in their history, so I guess that’s neat. It was also the first ninth inning homer Verlander has surrendered in his entire career, believe it or not. Nunez is the first non-Derek Jeter shortstop to hit a postseason homer for the team since Jim Mason in Game Three of the 1976 World Series. The Yankees only had five hits and zero walks in the game and have scored 12 of their 21 postseason runs in the ninth inning or later. That’s just too many. They have to start scoring earlier in the game.
It was a really rough night for Russell Martin, who allowed two stolen bases (in two attempts) and a passed ball. He also hurt his right thumb on a jam-shot ground ball against Verlander in the ninth, but said after the game that he’s fine and will play tomorrow. It’s worth noting that Nick Swisher was on deck to pinch-hit for Martin when Ibanez struck out to end the game. Not sure if that was just a matchup thing or a sign that Russ’ hand wasn’t good enough to hit.
The Yankees did get a little luck in that sixth inning when Omar Infante stopped at third on Garcia’s single off Logan. He would have scored easily — replays showed that Curtis Granderson had not even picked up the ball by the time Infante reached third base — and given the Tigers a three-run lead. The Cabrera double play following and that was that. Nunez also deserves some credit for a nice diving stop in the fifth, keeping the ball on the infield to save a run.
Sam Holbrook’s strike zone was just ridiculous; Verlander was getting a ton of calls off the plate to lefties. That’s not why the Yankees lost, but it certainly didn’t help. Here’s the PitchFX plot so you can see for yourself.
Box Score & WPA Graph
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights. The Yankees have not been swept in any playoff series since the Royals got them in the 1980 ALCS, which happened before I was born. Crazy. The Yankees also had four winning streaks of at least four games this season, which is what they’ll need to do to advance to the next round. For now, one game at a time.
The season is in the hands of CC Sabathia, who will start Game Four on Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. Hopefully the ninth inning was an indication that the offense is starting to awake. That would be nice. That game starts at 8pm ET, and check out RAB Tickets if you want to score some last minute deals to attend.
More great pitching, more disappointing offense. One more loss and everyone will be on winter vacation.
Win it for Philbert.
This situation right now is pretty much the closest the Yankees will ever get to being the underdog. They’re down two games to none in the best-of-seven ALCS, they haven’t hit a lick in the postseason, and the best pitcher on the planet will be on the mound for the Tigers tonight. It’s a truly dire situation for Joe Girardi‘s club.
That’s why a win tonight would be huge. The Yankees will have stolen a game from Justin Verlander and injected a little life into what has been a very one-sided series. I don’t know about the players, but I think the emotional pick-me-up for fans would be pretty enormous. It’s easy to be (very) down on the club right now, but going into Comerica Park and stealing a game from Verlander would be a great way to get back into the series and remind everyone who finished the season with the best record in the league. Here are the lineups…
RHP Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23)
CF Austin Jackson
LF Quintin Berry
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
RF Andy Dirks
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila
2B Omar Infante
RHP Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64)
It’s chilly in Detroit but that’s all. Classic playoff weather. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.
Ticket Update: If you want to catch any game in this series, either in New York or Detroit, make sure you check out RAB Tickets for some sweet last minute deals.
I’m going to start by repeating something I said this morning, but it’s worth it: the season is not on the line in Game Three tonight but it might as well be. Coming back from a three games to none deficit in a best-of-seven series is not unprecedented, but it is incredibly difficult. For all intents and purposes, a loss tonight would be a one-way ticket to the offseason. That’s the situation the Yankees have played (really hit, I have a hard time blaming the pitchers for anything) themselves into.
Because of this, Joe Girardi has to manage tonight like it is a Game Seven, particularly with his bullpen in relief of Phil Hughes. There’s little reason to hold anyone back for tomorrow or later in the series. This isn’t the regular season anymore, there’s no point in worrying about keeping guys fresh in the long-term when the offseason could be two days away. Girardi typically does a great job of keeping his bullpen rested during the summer, but all of that should go out the window now.
Thankfully, the core late-game relievers are well-rested. Not only did Monday’s travel day give everyone a day off, but David Robertson and Rafael Soriano also had Sunday’s game off as well. They didn’t even warm up. Furthermore, CC Sabathia is scheduled to start Game Four on normal rest tomorrow night, and he’s one of the very few pitchers who can be counted on to go out and soak up seven or more innings without thinking twice. Sabathia should make everyone, including Girardi, feel a little bit better about using the bullpen heavily tonight.
If push comes to shove in Game Three in a few hours, multiple innings from both Robertson and Soriano should be on the table. Soaking up nine total outs in a close game seems like a given, maybe even more if things get really messy. Both guys are rested, Sabathia is going tomorrow, and the game is of paramount importance. This is when a team needs to rely on its top bullpen arms and the Yankees are lucky enough to have two dynamite right-handers capable of getting both lefties and righties out. They’re a luxury who will be a necessity tonight.
Up two games to none in a best-of-seven series with the best pitcher on the planet scheduled to start Game Three is one hell of an enviable position. Unfortunately the Yankees are on the other side of that coin, down two-zip in the ALCS and slated to face Justin Verlander in his home ballpark tonight. That ain’t pretty.
Verlander, 29, put together another brilliant regular season — 2.64 ERA and 2.94 FIP in 238.1 innings — and seems to have gotten the postseason monkey off his back with a dominant ALDS showing. He came into 2012 with a 5.57 ERA in eight starts and 42 playoff innings but held the Athletics to one run in 16 total innings last week. Verlander was the worst possible matchup for the free swinging and strikeout heavy A’s, a description that unfortunately fits the Yankees’ offense at the moment as well.
2012 Performance vs. Yankees
The Yankees saw Verlander in all three series against Detroit in the regular season, beating him twice before that career-high strikeout total-tying performance in August. That game broken a stretch of six consecutive starts (playoffs included) against New York in which the right-hander allowed at least one first inning run.
The Yankees have actually hit Verlander harder than any other AL team in his career, a span of 13 starts and 345 batters faced. The problem is that his career started in 2005 and most of that information is irrelevant. The Yankees managed to hang five runs on him twice this year, but that still isn’t encouraging. Even if the offense was clicking on all cylinders at the moment, beating Verlander would still be a tall order. Now that they’re mired in a team-wide mega-slump, it seems like generating offense off him with take a miracle.
Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)
There is no mystery here. Verlander gets ahead with his mid-to-high-90s fastball (he famously adds velocity in the later innings) and puts hitters away with his knee-buckling upper-70/low-80s curveball. He’ll also throw a mid-80s slider to righties that breaks more down-and-away (like Joba Chamberlain‘s) than side-to-side. Verlander’s mid-80s changeup has morphed in a knockout pitch against lefties because he throws it with the same arm speed as his fastball. Felix Hernandez might have something to say about it, but there’s a very strong case to be made that the Detroit right-hander has the best pure stuff in the business. Two top of the line pitches in the fastball and curveball plus two other above-average offerings in the slider and changeup. Just filthy.
Performance & Results
Well, I hope you weren’t looking for a platoon split because Verlander dominates everyone. Maybe right-handed batters have a slightly better chance against him because he strikes out a touch fewer, but … nah. The guy is a machine and any team that faces him should run their very best lineup out there and forget all about platoon splits. The problem is that the Yankees don’t have a very best lineup right now, at least nothing outside of Mark Teixeira and Raul Ibanez in the middle of the order. The only thing I have to add here is that Verlander will let you steal a base, so anyone who reaches base tonight should be thinking about a stolen base as soon as possible.
The season is not on the line tonight, but it might as well be. The Yankees are down two games to none in the best-of-seven ALCS, so a loss in Game Three tonight might as well be the final nail in the coffin. Yeah, a comeback is always possible, the Yankees and their fans know that first hand, but it would extremely unlikely. A baseball miracle if there ever was one.
The Yankees opted not to bring CC Sabathia back on short rest for the start tonight, meaning Phil Hughes will get the ball against Justin Verlander. It’s a matchup so lopsided that you hope the theory of “reverse lock” comes into play, and in fact the Yankees did win a Hughes-Verlander meeting in Comerica Park earlier this season. That was Phil’s complete game in early-June, his best start of the season. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean anything now as much as I wish it did.
“I don’t really feel like I can feel any added pressure just because of the circumstances,” said Hughes yesterday. “I just have to go out there and pitch, that’s all it boils down to, not really worry about being down 0-2; that Verlander is on the mound; that we don’t have our captain. Those sort of things are going to be wasted energy, and all I really want to focus on is the Detroit Tigers lineup and doing the absolute best job I can do … Obviously we don’t want to go into the series over there down 0-2, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. I just have to go into Detroit, put together a good start and trust our guys are going to score some runs. I do enjoy that pressure and the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hughes turned in a rock solid start against the Orioles in the ALDS last week, allowing just one run while striking out eight in 6.2 innings. He was on nearly two weeks rest though, which may have put some life back into this right arm after throwing 191.1 innings in the regular season. If he turns in another performance like that against the Tigers tonight, the Yankees might lose. Their offense has been struggling that much and Verlander is that good. Hughes is really going to have to come up huge in what amounts to the second biggest start of his career behind Game Six of the 2010 ALCS.
One way or another, the Yankees have to win four of their next five games to advance to the World Series, and at least one of those four wins will have to come in a game started by Verlander. There’s no way around it. If they want to have a realistic chance at making this a competitive series, Hughes has to steal tonight’s game against Verlander and hand the ball off to Sabathia with a chance to tie things up tomorrow. The odds are against it and everyone is (really) down on the club right now, but stealing Game Three behind Phil would be a major lift going forward. Some much-needed faith would be restored.
The Yankees have become a broken record of great pitching and abysmal offense. Sunday afternoon’s Game Two loss put them in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven ALCS as things now shift to Detroit. Not for nothing, but getting out of Yankee Stadium is probably a good thing.
#HIROKtober Doesn’t Need Rest
The decision to start Hiroki Kuroda on short rest in Game Two was anything but a slam dunk as valid concerns about the 37-year-old’s workload were abound for the last month or so. Instead of wilting under the innings total and struggling as many expected, Kuroda turned in a masterpiece. He took a perfect game into the sixth and ultimately lasted 7.2 innings that should have been a full eight had second base ump Jeff Nelson not blown a call — Nick Swisher threw behind the runner at second on Austin Jackson’s single and Robinson Cano applied the tag for the third out with ease. Nelson blew the call — here’s proof he was out — and Kuroda’s night was over.
All told, the veteran right-hander allowed three runs in those 7.2 innings, but two of those runs scored after he left the game and the B-relievers took over. Boone Logan allowed a hit to a righty (surprise surprise) and Joba Chamberlain allowed a hit to Miguel Cabrera. Kuroda allowed just five hits (four singles), didn’t walk anyone, and struck out a season-high eleven. Ten of his 12 ball-in-play outs were on the ground. He was dominant, looking more like the midseason version of himself than a guy pushing 240 innings. It’s unbelievable that the Yankees haven’t converted these pitching performances into wins.
This Offense Creates The Wrong Kind Of Runs
Three singles, three walks (one intentional), and a double. That was the New York offense on Sunday. Mark Teixeira (double) and Raul Ibanez (walk) reached base with two outs in the first and Ichiro Suzuki made it to third base with two outs in the seventh, but no runs crossed the plate. Ibanez singled to leadoff the fourth but was erased on a botched hit-and-run with Russell Martin at the plate, a clear sign that the Yankees are getting desperate to generate offense.
The futility, as you know, runs up and down the lineup. Cano took an 0-for-4 and is now hitless since the first inning of Game Two of the ALDS, a span of 26 at-bats. That is the longest playoff hitless streak in team history. The bottom four hitters in the order went a combined 2-for-17 (singles by Alex Rodriguez and Swisher) with a walk (Curtis Granderson) and nine strikeouts. Ichiro reached base on an error once in four plate appearances in his first day as Derek Jeter‘s replacement in the leadoff spot. Joe Girardi semi-tore into his club for not making adjustments after the game, a problem that they simply may not have enough time to fix.
Girardi got ejected for arguing with Nelson following the blown call at second — his fifth ejection of 2012 and fourth in a game against the Tigers — and went a big instant reply rant after the game. He basically said what most fans have been thinking, that it’s ridiculous that the technology exists and is not being used. That said, Girardi made it clear that he does not blame the call (or yesterday’s blown call on Cano at first base) for the two losses to open the series. He was just stating the obvious.
Detroit scored their first run in the seventh after Kuroda nearly pitched his way out of a first and third situation with no outs. The speedy Quintin Berry was on third, the slow-footed Cabrera on third. He threw five straight splitters to Prince Fielder to strike the lefty slugger out, then Delmon Young bounced a routine double play ball to short. Fill-in shortstop Jayson Nix shuffled the ball to Cano for the first out, but he bobbled the transfer and that was that. Young was safe at first without a throw and Berry scored. Kuroda was so close to escaping the jam unscathed, but his defense betrayed him. Between that and the utter lack of run support this season, the guy must hate his teammates.
The Yankees have scored a total of 20 runs in their seven playoff games, including just eleven in the five games at home. The scored four runs in the two games against the Tigers this weekend, and all four came in one inning off the combustible Jose Valverde. In fact, non-Valverde pitchers have thrown 40.1 consecutive scoreless innings for Detroit, which is ridiculous. And I thought the Yankees were getting great pitching.
Box Score & WPA Graph
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights. I suppose the good news is that the Yankees have been down 2-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series eight times in their history, and they’ve rebounded to win the series four times. The most recent was, of course, the 1996 World Series against the Braves. Who will be the 2012 Jim Leyritz? For some reason Martin seems too obvious, so I’ll say Nix. Anyway, the last team to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven was (sadface) the 2004 Red Sox.
Monday is a travel day, so the Yankees (and their fans) will get a much needed day off. These two teams will reconvene at Comerica Park for Game Three on Tuesday night at 8pm ET. Phil Hughes is scheduled to get the ball against Justin Verlander in a mismatch that already went New York’s way once this season. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game.
Another day, another laughable offensive effort. The next Yankees hitter who makes an adjustment and tries not to hit a five-run homer will be the first.