Yankees Clobber Tigers 10-1, Force Decisive Game 5

Curtis Granderson's glove did some of the work early on, then the Yankees' bats took over, and this series is headed back to New York all tied at 2-2.

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18 Total Updates since October 4, 2011
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Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, And The Cruelty Of Baseball

Curtis Granderson made an important catch. Austin Jackson couldn't. This game is as surprising as it is unfair.

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Yankees vs. Tigers, Game 4: Highlights From The Live Blog

The Tigers had a golden opportunity to clinch the ALDS on Tuesday, playing at home and facing New York's worst starter, A.J. Burnett. Instead, Burnett allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings, relying on some huge defensive plays by former Tiger Curtis Granderson in center field. New York's lineup tagged Rick Porcello for four runs over six innings before unloading on Detroit's bullpen; by the time all was said and done, the Yankees won the game 10-1, sending the series back to New York for the series finale on Thursday.  

While New York was busy dashing Detroit's hopes, Baseball Nation's writers were busy live blogging the action. Catch up on the highlights below:

• For all the grief everyone gave A.J. Burnett before the start, Rob Neyer presciently wondered whether Burnett truly is as bad as everyone claimed:

I don't mean to discount Porcello's skills or Burnett's limitations. But I strongly suspect that if you made Burnett a Tiger and Porcello a Yankee and gave them both average luck in 2011, it's Porcello that everyone would be worried about. 

In hindsight, well, yeah. He's a smart one, that Neyer. 

• Burnett walked three batters in the first inning alone, and it almost cost him. Almost. He can thank his acrobatic center fielder, as Jeff Sullivan noted:

With two out and the bases loaded, Burnett faced Don Kelly and fell behind with a ball. The next pitch was a fastball in the low-away corner and Kelly ripped it on a line into center. Curtis Granderson hesitated, backtracked, and made a full extension catch to save several runs. At least three would've scored had the ball cleared Granderson's head, and Kelly might have even come all the way around, given that Granderson was falling down. 

It's one thing to read about an amazing catch, and it's another altogether to see it, so enjoy:

Grandersoncatch

• Grant Brisbee crawling inside Burnett's mind:

Burnett: /allows laser shot to dead center that Curtis Granderson catches somehow

Burnett: WHOOOOOO! YOU CAN'T TOUCH A.J., BABY. ALWAYS JACKED UP BURNETT, BABY.

• It's always fun to second guess managers. Neyer took issue with Jim Leyland's decision to sacrifice bunt in the first inning:

Managerial Test: Question 1
It's the first inning of a big game. Your leadoff man singles. He's really fast. The enemy pitcher regularly walks hitters and throws wild pitches. Your pitcher posted a 4.75 ERA this season, and is facing perhaps the best lineup in Major League Baseball.

Do you

a) bunt, and hope to score one run?

or

b) swing away, and hope to get your big boppers up with multiple runners aboard?

I'll bet you chose b. Jim Leyland chose a, and didn't even get that one run.

• Burnett gets all the margin for error he'd need for the night in the third inning when the Yankees took a 2-0 lead. From Jeff Sullivan:

Porcello's first mistake in the third was barely clipping Jorge Posada with an 0-and-1 fastball to lead off. Russell Martin then rolled a sinker back up the middle for a base hit to give the Yankees a pair of baserunners.

Brett Gardner followed and struck out looking at a very questionable high fastball, pausing to argue with umpire Dan Iassogna, but Derek Jeter then relieved any concern that the runners might get stranded by blasting a deep fly to center over the head of Austin Jackson. Both runners came around to score - Martin barely avoiding the tag of Alex Avila - on Jeter's two-run double.

• Burnett gave up a solo home run to Victor Martinez in the fourth, but otherwise Burnett got into a groove after some early wildness. From Sullivan:

Burnett was very ugly in the bottom of the first, narrowly avoiding a catastrophe. Overall, though, he's allowed just the one run in four innings, and his breaking ball's looking sharp. The Yankees bullpen was stirring again in the fourth and Burnett's up to 61 pitches, but as long as he survives the fifth, Joe Girardi will have little about which to complain.

• Remember that first diving catch by Granderson? He wasn't done, snagging this would-be hit off the bat of Jhonny Peralta in the sixth inning:

Grandersondive

Really? Really. Oh, and he had an RBI double in the previous inning, extending the Yankees' lead. I'm starting to think he really wants to beat his old team.  

• Even though his team was losing, Miguel Cabrera never lost his sense of humor: 

After A-Rod's first hit of the series, Miguel Cabrera just looked in the Yankees' dugout and jokingly asked if they wanted the ball for him.
Oct 05 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

 

 

• The Tigers trailed 4-1 entering the eighth inning ... and that's when things really fell apart. The Yankees beat up on the bullpen to the tune of six more runs, thanks to a bunch of a singles, a bases-loaded balk and a wild pitch. In other words, a complete train wreck. 

Can the Tigers regroup and win on Thursday? Or will the Yankees maintain their momentum and join the Rangers in the ALCS? We'll find out soon. 

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Curtis Granderson's Defense Saves A.J. Burnett; Yankees Beat Tigers, Force Game 5

A.J. Burnett was the last pitcher Yankees fans wanted to see in this series. Curtis Granderson saved the day for Burnett and New York.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Detroit Bullpen Melts Down As Blowout Takes Shape

This game might've gone so differently had Curtis Granderson not caught Don Kelly's bases-loaded liner in the first. But he did catch it, so the game has not gone differently. And what the game is, now, is a blowout.

This was a 4-1 game in the Yankees' favor coming into the eighth. With David Robertson and Mariano Rivera available, the three-run lead was probably already sufficient. But the Yankees added on. They loaded the bases with three consecutive singles off Phil Coke. In came reliable strikeout reliever Al Alburquerque to try to keep things within striking distance, but Alburquerque almost immediately committed a balk:

Balk

That made it 5-1. Jesus Montero singled to make it 6-1. Russell Martin walked, prompting Jim Leyland to replace Alburquerque with Daniel Schlereth, and then Brett Gardner singled to make it 7-1.

But wait! There's more. Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson struck out, but a wild pitch during Granderson's plate appearance made it 8-1. Then Robinson Cano singled to make it 10-1, chasing Schlereth and bringing in Ryan Perry. Alex Rodriguez greeted Perry with a line drive single into left. Finally, Mark Teixeira made the third out, on a deep shot to right that Don Kelly flagged down in front of the track.

To the bottom half of the eighth we go, and oh who even cares now

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Alex Rodriguez Got A Hit!

It was his first hit of the series.

After A-Rod's first hit of the series, Miguel Cabrera just looked in the Yankees' dugout and jokingly asked if they wanted the ball for him.
Oct 05 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Into The Eighth We Go, Still 4-1

The Tigers already had their chance at the easy part. They blew it. Now they have to come back in the hard part.

Detroit got to face the Yankees' worst starter in a potential elimination game, but they let him escape having allowed only one run. Some of that was due to fantastic defense in center field by Curtis Granderson, but some was due to poor hitting.

Once A.J. Burnett was gone, he was replaced by Rafael Soriano, who's had an inconsistent season. Soriano closed the sixth and then, in the seventh, he worked a 1-2-3 inning against the 8-9-1 members of the Tigers lineup.

So what does that mean? It's still 4-1 Yankees going into the eighth. And now, instead of Burnett and Soriano, Joe Girardi gets to turn to David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. For Detroit, this was a winnable game, once. It might not be a winnable game anymore.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: A.J. Burnett Survives Into Sixth

The Yankees established a 4-1 lead over the Tigers in the top of the fifth. A.J. Burnett turned in a scoreless bottom half. He also retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth before allowing a single to Don Kelly, and that would be the final batter he faced, as Joe Girardi came out and replaced him with Rafael Soriano.

Burnett's line (pending that baserunner):

5⅔ innings
4 hits
1 run
4 walks
3 strikeouts

On the one hand, Burnett wasn't fantastic. He wasn't great. He came one circus catch by Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the first away from allowing at least a bases-clearing triple. So, there was a lot of luck, here. But there were also some big pitches in some big spots, and at the end of the day, Burnett came out having allowed one run. This is greater than any outcome for which the Yankees would've reasonably been hoping.

And now I should tell you that Kelly was stranded on the basepaths, as Soriano came in and induced a pop fly off the bat of Jhonny Peralta. Here's how that went:

Grandersondive

Just another outstanding catch by Granderson, who remained on the ground for a short while before popping right back up. He's still in the game, albeit a little sore, probably.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Curtis Granderson Extends Lead

Even though he allowed a run, A.J. Burnett worked out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth, and kept the score at 2-1 New York. Now, in the top of the fifth, the Yankees have added on against Rick Porcello.

It all began with singles by Russell Martin and Brett Gardner. It looked like the Tigers got a break when Derek Jeter laid down a bunt and Porcello and Wilson Betemit combined on a terrific force play at third to get the lead runner...

Porcellobetemit

...but the next batter was Curtis Granderson, and he got an 0-and-2 fastball up in the zone that Porcello didn't mean to leave up in the zone. Granderson pounded the mistake off the right field wall for a run-scoring double that put the Yankees up 3-1.

An intentional walk and an Alex Rodriguez sac fly later, the Yankees' lead was up to three runs, and though Porcello ended the inning with a called strikeout of Mark Teixeira - Porcello's fifth strikeout of the game - that was a big inning for New York, as the lineup has given A.J. Burnett some breathing room. What remains to be seen is whether he'll breathe.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: It's All Right! A.J.'s Out Of That Jam!

In the previous update, we told you that Victor Martinez had taken A.J. Burnett deep with a solo shot in the fourth, and that Burnett also allowed a double to Jhonny Peralta. But the Tigers couldn't cash in the potential tying run, as Alex Avila struck out looking at a curve over the outer edge, and then Wilson Betemit struck out swinging at a curve in the dirt. So this thing's still 2-1 New York as we head to the fifth.

Burnett was very ugly in the bottom of the first, narrowly avoiding a catastrophe. Overall, though, he's allowed just the one run in four innings, and his breaking ball's looking sharp. The Yankees bullpen was stirring again in the fourth and Burnett's up to 61 pitches, but as long as he survives the fifth, Joe Girardi will have little about which to complain.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Victor Martinez Home Run Gets Hosts On Board

This was turning into a worrisome game for the Tigers. A great catch by Curtis Granderson robbed them of at least three runs in the first, and then they couldn't score against a more effective A.J. Burnett in the second or third. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter's two-run double off Rick Porcello in the third gave the Yankees the lead. Headed into the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers had to realize they were in a distressing position.

It's a little less distressing, now. Leading off, Victor Martinez got ahead 3-and-0 - in part thanks to wildness, and in part thanks to a very tight zone - and after he took one fastball down the middle, he swung at the next and blasted a no-doubter out to right for a solo home run. The Tigers are still behind, but the deficit's been chopped in half, and one never knows when Burnett might take a turn for the worse.

As a matter of fact, Burnett just allowed a double to Jhonny Peralta a few seconds ago! Joe Girardi had his bullpen working in the first, and I imagine we'll see action again shortly.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Derek Jeter Puts New York In Front

Here's the thing about Rick Porcello vs. A.J. Burnett: yes, Burnett is inconsistent and forever a threat to implode, but it's not like you can count on Porcello to keep the opponent silent for very long, either. At least not when the opponent is the New York Yankees. And sure enough, in the top of the third, the Yankees got on the board.

Oh, but before we talk about the third, there was the second. The second was eventless. Porcello set the Yankees down 1-2-3. Then Burnett set the Tigers down 1-2-3. It was a repeat for Porcello, but a big change for Burnett from his first inning performance.

Now then. Porcello's first mistake in the third was barely clipping Jorge Posada with an 0-and-1 fastball to lead off. Russell Martin then rolled a sinker back up the middle for a base hit to give the Yankees a pair of baserunners.

Brett Gardner followed and struck out looking at a very questionable high fastball, pausing to argue with umpire Dan Iassogna, but Derek Jeter then relieved any concern that the runners might get stranded by blasting a deep fly to center over the head of Austin Jackson. Both runners came around to score - Martin barely avoiding the tag of Alex Avila - on Jeter's two-run double.

The inning ended there with Jeter dying on the basepaths, but now Burnett has a lead with which to work, which is a nice break given how close he came to the disaster scenario in the bottom of the first.

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Jim Leyland, Joe Girardi Both Fail Tests In First Inning

Managerial Test: Question 1
It's the first inning of a big game. Your leadoff man singles. He's really fast. The enemy pitcher regularly walks hitters and throws wild pitches. Your pitcher posted a 4.75 ERA this season, and is facing perhaps the best lineup in Major League Baseball.

Do you

a) bunt, and hope to score one run?

or

b) swing away, and hope to get your big boppers up with multiple runners aboard?

I'll bet you chose b. Jim Leyland chose a, and didn't even get that one run.

Managerial Test: Question 2
It's the same first inning of that same big game. Your righty pitcher's almost out of trouble, but with two outs there's a man on third base and the next batter is a right-handed batter, one of the very best right-handed batters. Your pitcher regularly walks hitters and throws wild pitches. The man on deck is a switch-hitter who batted .330 during the regular season.

Do you

c) intentionally walk the batter?

or

d) pitch to the right-handed batter somewhat carefully, but try to get him out?

I'll bet you chose d. Joe Girardi chose c, and his pitcher wound up walking the switch-hitter too. The game remained scoreless only because the next batter's screaming line drive was hit almost directly at the center fielder, but there was very nearly a three-run triple in the very first inning.

Coming soon: the home version of You're the Manager!

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Joe Girardi Trusts A.J. Burnett

Joe Girardi: I feel good about (starting A.J. Burnett). I feel good about A.J.

A.J. Burnett: /allows walk

Girardi: Yeah, I mean, who am I going to go to?(Mariano Rivera)?

Burnett: /allows walk

Girardi: I think A.J. is going to take the mentality of, 'I have to pitch well,' no matter where the series is. I do.

Burnett: /allows walk

Girardi: ...I could have a very short leash.

Burnett: /looks like A.J. Burnett

Girardi: (picks up bullpen phone) Uh, get Cory Wade up.

Burnett: /allows laser shot to dead center that Curtis Granderson catches somehow

Burnett: WHOOOOOO! YOU CAN'T TOUCH A.J., BABY. ALWAYS JACKED UP BURNETT, BABY.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Rick Porcello Cruises Through First, A.J. Burnett Does Not

Tonight's Game 4 starters in Detroit are Rick Porcello and A.J. Burnett. I'm going to show you two first inning event sequences. Can you spot which sequence belonged to which pitcher?

Out
Out
Out

Walk
Out
Out
Walk
Walk
Out

Correct! Porcello rolled through the top of the Yankees' order on 11 pitches, and then Burnett got himself into a whole mess of trouble before narrowly escaping. Granted, one of those three walks was intentional, but then the first out was also intentional, as Ramon Santiago popped up a sac bunt attempt, so...

With two out and the bases loaded, Burnett faced Don Kelly and fell behind with a ball. The next pitch was a fastball in the low-away corner and Kelly ripped it on a line into center. Curtis Granderson hesitated, backtracked, and made a full extension catch to save several runs. At least three would've scored had the ball cleared Granderson's head, and Kelly might have even come all the way around, given that Granderson was falling down.

Grandersoncatch

But Granderson made the catch, and Burnett put up a zero. I suppose the Yankees don't really care how he posts zeroes, so long as he does. And oh by the way, as I was writing this Porcello threw a 1-2-3 second. So now it's right back to A.J. again!

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Don Kelly Earns Shot In Tigers' ALDS Game 4 Starting Lineup

Tuesday evening, Jim Leyland is giving us a slightly different look:

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

In Games 2 and 3, Don Kelly was a mid-game substitute for Magglio Ordonez, pinch-running and then taking over in the field. In Game 4, he's getting the start, and though we don't know why, it might have something to do with the fact that Kelly bats left-handed, and that the opposing starter, A.J. Burnett, is right-handed. Burnett has never shown much of a platoon split in his career, but it's seldom a bad idea to try for the handedness advantage.

The other difference from yesterday's lineup is that Wilson Betemit is starting in place of Brandon Inge. Inge went 2-for-4 with a double on Monday, but Inge is a righty while Betemit switch-hits, so, again, it's the handedness advantage. Over his career, Betemit has posted a .684 OPS against lefties, but an .817 OPS against righties. That's presumably the explanation, here.

For the Tigers, this game's going to be all about making Burnett work hard. It'd be great if Rick Porcello could keep the Yankees quiet, but that's a tough task, so the Tigers will probably need to score a fair amount of runs. They can't bail Burnett out by swinging at curves in the dirt.

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Joe Girardi Keeps Same Starting Lineup In ALDS Game 4

So far, the Detroit Tigers have only thrown righties at the New York Yankees, so it's hardly surprising that, for Tuesday's Game 4, Joe Girardi is starting the same lineup as usual against Rick Porcello:

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

One wouldn't expect anything different. Even though the Yankees have hit just .224 so far in this series, that's based on a sample of 98 at bats, and the Yankees can hit. The Yankees spent the entire regular season hitting. This is no time for Joe Girardi to mess around and overreact by making changes.

Of course, the lineup above leaves out the most important part:

A.J. Burnett, SP

Yikes. The Yankees never intended to have Burnett start in this round, but the rain on Friday left them little choice once the series went four, so now it's Burnett who'll take the mound with the Yankees' collective back against the wall. I wouldn't expect Girardi to have much patience; if Burnett's good, he'll pitch, but if he's bad, Girardi likely won't hesitate to call on some relief.

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