October 2012

Tigers go with bullpen by committee for now

Your Tigers closer for now is TBD. Manager Jim Leyland, who once made Bill Landrum a closer out of a bullpen by committee in Pittsburgh, said Sunday he’ll play a save situation by ear if the Tigers take a lead in the ninth.

He still calls Jose Valverde the closer. For now, however, he is not closing.

“If I have to mix and match for a longer period of time, I’ll do that,” Leyland said.

Healthwise, Leyland said, Valverde is fine. Effectiveness, of course, is another story.

“It looks to me like he’s kind of waiting for something bad right now,” Leyland said.

That said, he cautioned, “Jose Valverde is still a huge part of this team.”

Among the other closing options at Leyland’s disposal are setup man and occasional fill-in closer Joaquin Benoit, who has thrown strikes but been prone to the long ball, and Octavio Dotel, a former closer at several stops who had a few chances this year when Valverde and Benoit have been on rest.

ALCS Game 2 lineups: Tigers at Yankees

Well, the easiest decision of Jim Leyland’s day is done. We know who’s starting Game 2. Who’s closing it if the Tigers have a lead in the ninth is another matter, and we won’t have any better idea on that until Leyland talks this afternoon before the game.

The Yankees pretty much move a bunch of hitters up in Derek Jeter’s absence. Jayson Nix starts at shortstop, batting ninth.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Omar Infante, 2B

P: Anibal Sanchez

YANKEES

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, LF
  2. Robinson Cano, 2B
  3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  4. Raul Ibanez, DH
  5. Russell Martin, C
  6. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
  7. Curtis Granderson, CF
  8. Nick Swisher, RF
  9. Jayson Nix, SS

P: Hiroki Kuroda

ALCS Game 1: Tigers at Yankees

Same lineup as the two games against left-handed starters in the AL Division Series. The Yankees, meanwhile, return Alex Rodriguez to the starting lineup. That might be good news for the Tigers, who saw the best hitting of Eric Chavez for four games in Detroit in August.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-20, 2 HRs, 5 K’s off Pettitte)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH (13-for-24 off Pettitte)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (7-for-18, 3 HRs off Pettitte)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF
  8. Avisail Garcia, RF
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Doug Fister

YANKEES

  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B (5-for-14, 3 2B, HR off Fister including postseason)
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B (5-for-16, HR off Fister including postseason)
  5. Raul Ibanez, DH
  6. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (1-for-9, 3 strikeouts off Fister)
  7. Nick Swisher, RF
  8. Curtis Granderson, CF
  9. Russell Martin, C

P: Andy Pettitte

Tigers roster stays the same for ALCS

Just got word the Tigers will keep their same roster for the ALCS as they had for the Division Series. They’ll stick with their seven-man bullpen and five-man bench.

For those who lost track, the roster is this:

Here’s the roster:

Rotation: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer

Bullpen: Jose Valverde, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly

Catchers: Alex Avila, Gerald Laird

Infielders: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth

Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Andy Dirks, Avisail Garcia, Austin Jackson, Don Kelly

DH: Delmon Young

The bullpen stays the same, but with the extra left-handed hitters the Yankees have available on their bench, one can expect Drew Smyly to get into this series at some point. Expect, too, a heavy workload for Al Alburquerque, whose slider/fastball mix allows him to be effective against left- and right-handed hitters.

Will Tigers tweak their roster for ALCS?

One misnomer about the baseball postseason is that there is no set roster for the entire postseason. There are rules to be eligible for the roster in the postseason, such as needing to be called up by Sept. 1 unless there’s an injury involved, but the postseason roster changes series by series.

With that in mind, the Tigers will turn in their roster for the ALCS Saturday morning. And one has to believe that with a matchup against the Yankees, rather than the A’s, they have some potential changes if they want.

Is this matchup, with as many as four games in front of the short right-field fence of Yankee Stadium, the one that brings Brennan Boesch back from roster purgatory and into a potential late-inning pinch-hit role?

On the flip side, is the formidable presence of Raul Ibanez, whose two home runs in a game he entered as a pinch-hitter, a strong enough reason for the Tigers to add Darin Downs or Brayan Villarreal to their bullpen?

Yes, Villarreal is right-handed. However, he held left-handed hitters to 12-for-63 (.190) with 18 strikeouts on the season. His toughest opponent against lefties was himself, with 19 walks. He’s the kind of power pitcher who could also help continue Alex Rodriguez’s struggles.

Of course, he’s also the pitcher who was notably wild in a tie game at Yankee Stadium at the end of April.

Then there’s Downs, who held lefties to 6-for-35 with 10 strikeouts but who pitched in just four games after Sept. 1. He’s a lefty, but so is Drew Smyly, and he didn’t pitch at all against Oakland.

The Tigers carried just six relievers for the Division Series, allowing them to carry five position players on their bench. If they add an extra reliever, it would probably change that balance rather than erase another reliever from the roster.

Of course, the Tigers could find a spot for an extra position player if they wanted to carry Boesch. He’s 11-for-30 lifetime at Yankee Stadium, but just one of those are home runs. He also has 11 strikeouts there, five of them over 13 plate appearances in the Bronx at the end of April.

If Jim Leyland wanted a power lefty bat on his bench as an option, or even as a decoy, Boesch would be the guy. But it’s far from a given, and the impact is up for debate.

 

Update on ALCS tickets

Now that the Tigers-Yankees matchup is set, the ticket situation is clear. The Tigers are scheduled to host Games 3-5, next Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:07pm ET, then Thursday at 4:07.

Justin Verlander will pitch Game 3 Tuesday night. The Yankees haven’t announced their rotation yet, but CC Sabathia would seemingly be on track to oppose Max Scherzer in Game 4 Wednesday night. Andy Pettitte would fall in line to pitch Game 5 for the Yankees opposite Fister.

Ticket information is available online at tigers.com/postseason. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 866-66-TIGER, and in person at the Comerica Park box office.

Tigers ALCS tickets still available

The Tigers were still waiting for an ALCS opponent Friday afternoon, and still waiting to see if they’ll open the series at home against the O’s or on the road for a rematch with the Yankees. Either way, though, they have a limited number of tickets still available for games at Comerica Park.

Tickets are available for home games 1-4. What date those games take place depend on the opponent. If the Tigers face the O’s, games 1-2 and 6-7 (if necessary) would be in Detroit. If it’s a Yankees-Tigers series, Detroit would host games 3-5.

Game times, however, are available. Game 1 Saturday night, wherever it is, will start at 8:07 ET. Game 2 is Sunday at 4:07. Games 3-4 are at 8:07 next Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a 4:07 game next Thursday.

For tickets, log on to tigers.com/postseason or call 866-66-TIGER.

Notes and quotes on Verlander’s Game 5 shutout

How rare was Justin Verlander’s complete-game four-hit shutout in a win-or-go-home Game 5 to close out an AL Division Series? Here are a few facts and figures to help figure that out:

  • Only one Major League pitcher in the last 20 years has tossed a complete-game shutout in a do-or-die game to close out a postseason series. That was Chris Carpenter, who did it for the Cardinals last year. The last American League pitcher to do it under those circumstances was Jack Morris, who tossed 10 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
  • Verlander’s 11 strikeouts ties the highest total ever in a win-or-go-home type game in the postseason. a mark Cliff Lee set two years ago in Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays ALDS.
  • If you go by Bill James’ formula for Game Score, adding points for innings pitched and strikeouts while subtracting for hits, walks and runs allowed, Verlander barely tops Sandy Koufax’s shutout in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series for highest Game Score in a win-or-go-home game, 89 to 88 according to baseball-reference.com.

Now for the quotes …

  • Tigers catcher Alex Avila: “This goes right up there with his no-hitters for sure. It pushes us into the ALCS. To do it against a team like that in a pretty hostile environment, he was in his own world out there and really just kind of put us on his back there.”
  • Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder: “I can’t put my finger on it. I’d say maybe the fourth inning I thought, ‘All right. He hasn’t thrown 100 yet but he’s still got it.’ Whenever he doesn’t have to throw as hard and they still can’t touch it, it’s all right. We have a good shot.”
  • Avila: “He wanted to obviously have the velocity on his fastball, but also being able to locate with it, wanting to throw quality strikes. The first start against them, you could tell he was trying to amp it up early on and was missing early on. Tonight he was able to stay in that mid-90s and really concentrate on the corners and locate with his fastball, which set everything up.”
  • Tigers second baseman Omar Infante: “When we have Verlander, the way he pitched, it’s unbelievable. That’s why we win.”
  • A’s manager Bob Melvin: “But when Verlander gets on a roll like he was today, especially once he gets into his rhythm, you get into the middle innings and he’s rolling along pretty good, it’s tough to stop him.  It’s like a locomotive going at a high speed.  He was tough to deal with.”
  • Tigers manager Jim Leyland: “I think he’s a pretty good matchup for anybody when he is right.  He had that look in his eyes today.  He was determined.  He had a complete game look in his eye.  And we were thankful to get that.  And we got some big hits.”

Game 5: Tigers at A’s

No big changes on the Tigers side. Bob Melvin makes an interesting shift against Verlander by moving Seth Smith up to the cleanup spot and bumping Brandon Moss to seventh. Neither of them bat well against Verlander at all (Smith 1-for-9, Moss 0-for-6 with 4 strikeouts).

“Just a minor tweak,” Melvin said. “We’ll go with a hot hand, Smitty probably swinging a little bit better, but that doesn’t mean Moss’ spot doesn’t come up in a bigger situation. We still have a lot of confidence in him. It was Smitty last night in the seven hole where that situation comes up. So you never know how it’s going to play out. But you might want to get an at‑bat, one more bat in the game or a guy up earlier in the game, and Smitty is swinging the bat pretty well.”

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Omar Infante, 2B

P: Justin Verlander

ATHLETICS

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Stephen Drew, SS
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  4. Seth Smith, DH
  5. Josh Reddick, RF
  6. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  7. Brandon Moss, 1B
  8. Derek Norris, C
  9. Cliff Pennington, 2B

P: Jarrod Parker

So what was that delivery from Jose Valverde?

Statistically, Jose Valverde has had games like this before. There was the game in Cleveland last month, in which he gave up two runs on three hard hits. There was the three-run ninth inning against the Royals in July.

Mechanically, it was a different Valverde than any version we’ve seen in Detroit.

His delivery looked pretty normal, certainly by today’s standards. His mechanics to get into a position to deliver, though, looked unlike anything he had done here. His back, which he usually stretches a little as he gets into position to throw, arched more before he threw his early pitches. At times, he looked like he was undulating before he went into his delivery.

Whether that had any part in his demise Wednesday is up for debate, no doubt. Even if it didn’t, it just looked odd for him. For someone who has had back issues — he missed time in May with a strained lower back — it was something to pay attention.

Valverde, for his part, said he did nothing different.

“Everything’s the same,” Valverde said. “I think it was the same. I threw my fastball, my sinker, my split. You have to give credit to the other team. There’s nothing you can do.”

Avila said, “He’s fine,” when asked about Valverde. It doesn’t necessarily mean he was the same, but he was fine doing it.

Indeed, if Valverde was having serious back trouble, one would figure it would be more obvious. Still, this late in the year, it’s an interesting development.

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