Jobu reviews the Yankees clash at the stadium against the Detroit Tigers.
After a tough 3-gamer against the Texas Rangers, the Yankees got back to the Bronx to host a struggling, but very good, Detroit Tigers team. The Tigers came into this series on a five game hitting streak, while the Yankees came in with ALDS revenge on their minds. As a Yankees fan, I felt pretty good coming into this series, despite the fact that the Yankees would have to deal with Justin Verlander in game one and with having Freddy García on their own mound in game two. Things came up Milhouse for the Yankees this series, as they took two out of three. Here’s how they did it:
Game 1: Yankees 7, Tigers 6
As I mentioned before, this game looked like it would be a big challenge for the Yankees, and thats just what it proved to be. Justin Verlander, however, wasn’t really the reason why. The Yankees had a thrilling comeback victory (their 7th of the young season), as the Verlander faultered, and the Tigers’ bullpen imploded a bit.
Iván Nova Does Not Lose… Sort Of
Yankees pitcher Iván Nova hasn’t lost since last June. It is a string of fifteen consecutive decisions over his last twenty starts, and he kept it up against the Tigers on Friday night. He did not, however, pitch well. He definitely deserved the loss that he would have gotten had the Yankees not come back late in this game. The Tigers got the scoring started against Nova in the second inning, although this one was not Iván’s fault. Don Kelly walked to start the inning and Brad Eldred hit a sinking line drive at Raúl Ibañez. What should have been a single turned into an RBI triple (please hurry back, Brett Gardner). The next inning, the Tigers ground balled Nova to death (four singles in a row), and put up two more runs to take a 3-1 lead.
The Yankees eventually gave Nova a 4-3 lead, but he coughed it up in the top of the sixth. Jhonny Peralta opened the inning with a double and moved to third on a single by Ryan Rayburn. Both men then scored on a booming double by former Yankees prospect, Austin Jackson (God he was annoying this series). After a lineout and an intentional walk, Nova was removed in favor of Boone Logan. The Yankees allowed one of the inherited runners to score on an RBI single, and it was 6-4 Tigers by the time the inning was over. Nova’s final line looked pretty gross: 5.1 innings, 11 hits, 6 runs, 3 walks and 5 Ks. Nova might not have lost, but he certainly didn’t do enough to win.
The reason the Yankees were able to come back in this game was the tremendous pitching they got from their amazing (but taxed) bullpen. Logan was the only one who wasn’t very effective. He allowed the single to Prince Fielder in the sixth that let in Nova’s sixth run (but it’s tough to come in with the bases juiced against that guy). Wade came in to clean up the mess and end the sixth, and then added another scoreless inning in the 7th. David Robertson, who might not give up a run all season, then came in and pitched a scoreless 8th, before Mariano Rivera came in to keep things tied in the 9th. Overall, the bullpen went 3.2 innings, and allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out four. Another great job by the Yankees relievers. They might not have arms left by July, but they’re pitching wonderfully right now.
Everyone Loves A Comeback
As I have mentioned a couple of times now, the Yankees offense had Justin Verlander to contend with in this game. While the reigning league MVP and Cy Young Award winner managed to go six innings, he ended up leaving with seven hits allowed and five runs (four earned) while only striking out four. The Yankees got it started early, when Curtis Granderson hit a one-out double in the top of the first. Alex Rodríguez immediately singled him in, and the Yankees led 1-0 after one. A-Rod hit the first home run allowed by Verlander all season in the bottom of the fourth, and the Yankees pulled within one run, at 3-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, Eric Chavez led off with a single and scored on a tater by Russell Martin, giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead, which they would squander in the top of the sixth. The Yankees weren’t going to let Verlander settle into any lead comfortably all night though, and they showed that by plating a run in the bottom of the sixth when Nick Swisher doubled and scored when Don Kelly misplayed a line drive hit right at him by Raúl Ibañez. The score was now 6-5, and it was time to bite into that delicious Tigers’ bullpen.
After failing to score a run in the seventh, the Yankees opened the bottom of the eighth with consecutive singles by Robinson Cano and Alex Rodríguez, setting up first and third and nobody out for Mark Teixeira. Tex got a hold of a fastball from Jaoquin Benoit, but hit it to the deepest part of the park, so he only got a sacrifice fly out of it. At least the game was tied at 6-6 now, setting up the Captain’s wild base running heroics in the bottom of the ninth. Jeter walked with one out, and reliever Brayan Villareal built up a 3-2 count to Granderson. Jeter took off on the 3-2 pitch, and scampered all the way to third when the ball got away from catcher Alex Avila for a wild pitch. With runners on first and third now, A-Rod stepped in. The first pitch to him was mishandeld by Avila again, this time for a passed ball, and Jeter scored to win the game. It wasn’t the greatest rally, but a win is a win is a win.
Notable offense: HR – Rodríguez (4), Martin (2), RBI – Rodríguez 2 (9), Martin 2 (6), Teixeira (12), 3 hits for A-Rod, 2 for Swisher.
Game 2: Tigers 7, Yankees 5
This was a pretty big game for the Yankees. Not so much because of the opponent, or the importance of the matchup, but because this game had the potential to either solidify or alter their starting rotation. The Yankees had Freddy García on the bump, and the 35-year-old righty was basically pitching for his life (at least in this rotation). Unfortunately for García, he did not deliver, and after the game he was removed from the rotation. Womp Womp.
Bye Bye, Freddy
It really didn’t take long for Freddy to decide he didn’t want to be in the rotation anymore. The Tigers started off the top of the first with a walk by Jackson (grr). García actually struck out the next two tigers (including Miguel Cabrera), before intentionally walking Fielder to get to Andy Dirks. Naturally, Dirks took García deep, and the Tigers led 3-0. That sucked, but the whole rally was really one bad pitch, so it wasn’t the end of the world. That came in the second inning.
A single by Alex Avila started off the rally. After two outs, Freddy again got into trouble. Jackson singled Avila to second and Brennan Boesch doubled him in, setting up second and third with two out for Cabrera. Miggy singled in Jackson and Boesch, and the Tigers led 6-1. That would be all for Freddy. A no good, very bad start… probably his last as a Yankee.
Phelpsy Makes His Case
As bad as García was, he did create a wonderful opportunity for David Phelps to jump into the rotation. Phelpsy got the job done, as did the rest of the Yankees bullpen, but I bet you already knew that. Before Phelps came in, however, I should point out that Clay Rapada pitched 1.1 perfect innings. For a guy who is only supposed to be facing lefties, Rapada has really done a great job.
Anyway, back to Phelps. The kid, who had struggled a little his last couple of times out, was very impressive against the Tigers in game two. Overall, he threw three innings, allowing only a walk and striking out two. He was much more efficient this time out too, using only 32 pitches to get through the three innings. Based on this outing, and his overall work this season, the Yankees announced after the game that Phelps would be taking the ball when Freddy García’s turn in the rotation comes up next week. Congratulations David, let’s see if you can get through the sixth inning! Woooooo!
The last noteworthy performance out of the Yankees bullpen came courtesy of Cody Eppley, who pitched the last three innings after Phelps came out of the game. Eppley allowed a home run to Miguel Cabrera (who hasn’t), but nothing else. In all, the Yankees bullpen pitched 7.1 innings, allowing only one run on two hits, two walks and striking out five. Impressive.
Just Not Enough
The Yankees made this game interesting later on, but they didn’t do enough early in the game to set up the late heroics properly. The Tigers sent Drew Smyly to the mound, and he gave them plenty of reason to smile (sorry, terrible pun), holding the Yankees to just one run on two hits in his six innings of work. Plain and simple, he was good, and the Yankees upheld their rich tradition of getting baffled by pitchers they haven’t faced before. The only blemish for Smyly was a solo home run by Nick Swisher in the bottom of the first inning. Not bad for a rookie, right?
The Yankees did most of their damage against the soft underbelly of the Tigers bullpen. In the bottom of the seventh, it was Phil Coke’s turn to allow a run to the Yankees, and he did so by serving up a home run to Curtis Granderson. It was Granderson’s 7th home run of the year and his first off a lefty after leading the league in home runs off of lefties a year ago. In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers put in their closer, José Valverde, and Swisher welcomed him with another home run to make the score 7-3. The Yankees weren’t done there though.
After Cano flew out, A-Rod walked and Tex popped out, bringing up Granderson with a runner on second and two out. Grandy’s RBI single made it a 7-4 game, and he scored on a pinch-hit double by Ibañez. That made the score 7-5 and brought up Chavez to pinch-hit for Russell Martin. Chavez just missed an 0-2 pitch, sending a deep fly ball to right. It was caught by Don Kelly… just short of a game tying home run. Tough loss, but not the worst offensive performance of all time, right?
Notable Offense: HR – Swisher 2 (6), Granderson (7), RBI – Swisher 2 (23), Granderson 2 (14), Ibañez (12), 2 hits for Swisher, 2 hits for Granderson
Game 3: Yankees 6, Tigers 2
Game three had a very similar theme to most of Sabathia’s starts this season. The bullpen was running on fumes, and they needed the Big Lefty to give them a day off. The Tigers had Max Scherzer on the mound looking to turn his season around after entering play with an 8.24 ERA. One of those two things happened, and it wasn’t good for the Tigers.
Rest for the Weary
There’s a reason why the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to an extension this past off-season. He’s their ace. He’s their stopper. He’s the guy that pitches deep into ballgames and wins series clinching games. Simply stated, he’s the man. He pitched like the man against the Tigers in game three, giving the bullpen a much needed breather in a masterful eight inning performance on Sunday.
The only blemishes on Sabathia’s day were a solo home run by Prince Fielder and an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera. If you’re only giving up one RBI to each of those guys in any given game, you’re doing a good job. CC’s performance was so good that it was almost boring, as he mostly breezed through eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out eight. Sabathia now has 38 strikeouts this season, which is a career high for him in April. Good job, big man. (Note: David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth in a non-save situation… but that’s what he does.)
The Yankees almost seemed to be teasing the Tigers early on in this game, before putting it away late. Unfortunately, they could have put the game away very early on. Instead, they played a cat and mouse game with the Tigers (didn’t see that pun coming, did you?), allowing them to stay close pretty much all game. Scherzer really struggled with his control, walking seven men in just 4.2 innings and throwing 119 pitches. Unfortunately, the Yankees left fourteen of the base runners they had against Scherzer on base. Granderson walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second to score the first run, and A-Rod followed him with an infield single that plated a second run.
After the Tigers pulled it to 2-1, Granderson’s home run in the bottom of the fourth gave the Yankees back their 2-run lead. The home run almost didn’t happen, as Austin Jackson almost made one of the better catches you’ll ever see (in the photo above), but Jackson couldn’t hang on, and the Yankees led 3-1. After the Tigers pulled it to 3-2, the next two Yankees runs came on a fielder’s choice RBI by A-Rod (a great slide by Chris Stewart, who has really been a pleasant surprise with the bat) and a sacrifice fly by Cano. This was more than enough for CC, but Andruw Jones clobbered a home run to left in the bottom of the eighth for good measure. It was Jones’ 3rd home run of the year, and it almost went into the upper deck! Truly a bomb. After that, Houdini shut the Tigers down in the ninth and the Yankees won.
Notable Offense: HR – Granderson (8), Jones (3), RBI – Granderson 2 (16), Rodríguez 2 (11), Cano (4), Jones (5), 2 hits for Jeter, Cano, Jones and Chavez
Overall, this was a great series for the Yankees. Although the Tigers had been struggling coming into the series, they are still a great team. They have one of the more stacked offenses in baseball (both at the plate and the clubhouse lunch spread), and a very good rotation. The Yankees were trying to end what should be one of their tougher stretches of the season (three against Boston, Texas and Detroit each) on a positive note, and they did that by winning two out of three. That put them at 5-3 on the nine game stretch (one rainout in Boston), which is pretty darn good.
We finally got an answer from Joe Girardi on the Freddy García issue, as the Venezuelan finally broke the camel’s back with his second straight start of less than two innings. Freddy will leave the rotation and head to the bullpen, although i question how effective he’ll really be in relief, since he has only had two relief appearances in his entire career. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Freddy released when Andy Pettitte declares himself ready to face major league hitters. If Phelps does well in his spot start against the Royals this week, he will most likely get another start. If Hughes continues to pitch like garbage, and Pettitte comes back, there really is no room for Freddy. It’s been real, Freddy. We appreciate what you were able to do for us last season, but it just didn’t work out in 2012.
One other thing of concern went on in this game, and that was Nick Swisher‘s hammy. Swish took a swing in the bottom of the third which caused a low-grade strain of his left hamstring. Swish is not expected to spend any time on the DL, as he should be good to go in a few days, but his injury will put a lot of strain on the defense. The Yankees will probably be forced to play the Orioles series (at least) with Jones in left and Ibañez in right, as Girardi has said that he will most likely not be adding an outfielder before Brett Gardner gets back against Kansas City. I would hate to have Eduardo Núñez as the only bench option if an outfielder gets hurt but, with the way this rotation has been pitching, you can’t really send down a reliever either. Hopefully all is well with Gardy and Swish, and we only have to put up with horrible outfield defense for a few games.
Next up, the first place Baltimore Orioles will come to town. You know it’s still April when you’re saying that nonsense. Let’s see if the Yankees can send them on their yearly summer trip back to the bottom of the standings.
Featured image courtesy of: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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