After the jubilation of Friday night's victory in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Yankees didn't have much time to celebrate. They had to shift their focus to the Detroit Tigers, their opponent for the ALCS, and start working out some of their offensive kinks if they wanted to have a chance at winning this series. Andy Pettitte took the ball last night and pitched pretty well, but another double dose of offensive futility and some absolutely abysmal bullpen management by Joe combined to waste Andy's start and put the team in a 4-0 hole heading into the 9th inning. Some A+ drama sparked by 2 2-run homers off the bats of Ichiro and Raul Ibanez (who else?) tied the game, but only really delayed the inevitable as the Yanks ended up losing 6-4 in extras and losing even bigger when Derek Jeter broke his left ankle. There's a lot to recover from heading into tonight's game, but the Yankees have to make the recovery and have to wake the fuck up offensively. Going down 2-0 heading into Detroit would make this series damn near over already.
NYY: 1) Ichiro- LF, 2) Cano- 2B, 3) Teix- 1B, 4) Ibanez- DH, 5) Martin- C, 6) A-Rod- 3B, 7) C-Grand- CF, 8) Swish- RF, 9) Nix- SS
DET: 1) Jackson- CF, 2) Berry- LF, 3) Cabrera- 3B, 4) Fielder- 1B, 5) Young- DH, 6) Dirks- RF, 7) Peralta- SS, 8) Avila- C, 9) Infante- 2B
Hiroki Kuroda (8.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K in 1 postseason start) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K in 1 postseason start)
3 Things to Watch For:
1) Joe's Bullpen Plan
I couldn't quite tell you what the hell he was thinking last night. Derek Lowe was the first man out of the 'pen in a 2-run game in the 7th, and after he left Boone Logan, Cody Eppley, and Clay Rapada were all next out ahead of D-Rob and Rafael Soriano. Joe managed last night like it was a regular season game, trying to keep guys rested instead of playing to win, and he better use that idiocy to his advantage today by working these guys hard in support of Kuroda on short rest.
2) A Real Heart of The Order
With Jeter out, Ichiro and Cano get bumped up in the batting order, and the new 3-4 pairing is Teix and Raul Ibanez. Those 2 have been the most consistent sources of offense for this team in the postseason, and they were both heavily involved in last night's 9th-inning comeback. There has already been a huge need for people to step up, and that need only increases with Jeter out. With these 2 guys swinging the hottest bats right now, it makes sense to put them in the best run-producing spots in the lineup.
3) Yanks Approach Against Cabrera
They treated him with kid gloves last night, but didn't completely avoid him, and Cabrera didn't single-handedly destroy the Yankees. But he has before, and there's only so many times you can go to that well against him before he burns you. I would expect Kuroda to try to work Cabrera down in the zone with his slider and split and not give him any fastballs to hit, but he needs to throw strikes and not give Cabrera free passes. Prince Fielder hitting behind him has some familiarity with Kuroda from their time in the NL, and he's Prince fucking Fielder. An innocent walk to the Triple Crown Winner (but not MVP) can turn into a 2-run bomb just like that, so Kuroda is going to have to pitch to Miggy.
Players To Watch:
New York- Kuroda
He's never pitched on short rest before in his career, which isn't exactly a confidence booster when you're talking about a 37-year-old already working on a career high in IP, and he's pitching a must-win game. There's no way to know how Kuroda will be on short rest, but it goes without saying that the Yankees need him to be good tonight. At least 5-6 innings of good.
Detroit- Delmon Young
Delmon Young is not a good baseball player. It's really that simple. Last night he went 3-6 with a 2B, HR, and drove in 3 runs. You can live with Cabrera and/or Fielder beating you, but not Delmon Young. Behind him the rest of the Detroit lineup, while dangerous, is also pretty manageable, so Kuroda can't let Young go nuts tonight. There's too much more potential damage to be done by the 3-4 hitters to let someone like Young beat you on his own.
The Yankees are a beaten down bunch after last night, in every way imaginable. We know there are physical ailments plaguing some of the key hitters in the lineup, and we know they have to come back today after taking the emotional double whammy of losing another extra-inning playoff game and watching their captain get carried off the field last night. They aren't quite "backs against the wall" yet, but they need a win tonight to avoid having this series fall too far away from them that they can't get back in it.