Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nova Ready To Shine?

I had faith, albeit blind faith, in A.J. Burnett going into Tuesday's make or break Game 4 of the ALDS. Down two games to one, Burnett delivered and Curtis Granderson played the role of superhero with a very good catch and an amazing catch in the Yankees 10-1 thrashing of the Detroit Tigers.

So now the teams are back in New York tonight for the fifth an deciding game. Remarkably, the game is at 8:05 instead of the usual 8:37. It's a rematch of the Game 1 relievers Ivan Nova and Doug Fister. Of course, both pitchers were supposed to start Game 2 last Saturday, but instead had to pick up Game 1 after rain suspended play on Friday.

Nova was outstanding - he pitched into the 9th inning - and is brimming with confidence at the moment. Fister was outstanding down the stretch for the Tigers and finished with a 2.83 ERA. But in Game 2 he pitched with runners on base in all but one one of his 4+ innings of relief. He left in the 6th inning, down 4-1 and with the bases full of Yankees. His line got worse moments later when Al Alburquerque gave up a grand slam to Robinson Cano that broke the Tigers' backs.

Nova started his work in the 3rd inning and retired the six men he faced before he ran into trouble in the 6th. He got a break though when third base Gene Lamont waved home Alex Avila from second base on a Jhonny Peralta single to center. Granderson relayed to Derek Jeter, who fired home to Russell Martin to nail Avila.

Nova walked Austin Jackson to start the 6th, but got Magglio Ordonez to hit in a double play. He allowed just a single base runner over the next two innings before he tired in the 9th and was charged with some inherited runs allowed by Luis Ayala.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he will not use Game 1 and 3 starter Justin Verlander in relief tonight. Verlander said he would try to sneak down to the pen and talk Leyland into using him. Joe Girardi, on the other hand, said that he will use CC Sabathia if needed. As the cliche goes, "all hands on deck". Or in this case, in the batter's box.

Will the little glimpses of life that Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher showed in Game 4 carry over to tonight? Teixeira will be back batting from the the left side, where his OPS is far less than when he's facing a left-handed pitcher. Tex seems to be having trouble picking up breaking pitches from right-handers and the overshift teams deploy against him has not helped him. He's hit some pitches the opposite way over the last couple of games, which is good sign, even if means a single or double rather than a home run.

The Yankees first baseman isn't the only who hasn't done a lot of damage in the series. Tigers' first baseman Miguel Cabrera had a big 2-run home run in Game 2, but has gone just 3-12 overall. Victor Martinez homered off of A.J. Burnett in Game 4, but is just 3-14. In fact, the leading hitters on the Tigers are players you wouldn't expect to be at the top of the list- Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, and Ryan Rayburn.

I feel just as I did before the series started; that either team could win it. And I stand by my original prediction of the Yankees winning the series in five games. I believe tonight will come down to a battle of the bullpens in the late innings...and anything goes.

Hopefully, it goes the Yankees' way.

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