Wow ! Where do I begin ? Three days before spring training I said if this 2012 Yankees team was going to get past the first round of the playoffs they were going to have to hit in big spots. Well they got past the first round defeating the Baltimore Orioles three games to two but it wasn't because they hit in the clutch it was because they pitched very well. As a matter of fact both teams pitched well. In this series the Yankees pitching staff was 3-2 with an ERA of 1.76. They gave up eight walks and struck out 42. The O's hitters hit just .187 in the series. The pitching staff followed the lead of their ace CC Sabathia who was 2-0 with an ERA of 1.02 with 3 walks and 16 strikeouts.
That old saying that playoff games always come down to pitching might be true but for Yankees fans that wasn't the case. For most people the reason why this series was a hard fought battle wasn't because the O's pitched well it was because other than Derek Jeter ( .364 4 RS 2 RBI ) and Raul Ibanez ( .444 2 HR 3 RBI ) the Yankees didn't hit. As a team the Yankees hit .211. They had an OBP of .278, an OPS of .611 and a slugging percentage of .333. The big bats that are expected to step up went cold. Just look at these stats. Robinson Cano hit .091, Nick Swisher .111, Curtis Granderson .158 and between the three of them they struck out 26 times. Granderson might be heating up. In the deciding game five Granderon was 2-3 with a homerun. He had three good at bats and hit the ball well all three times. Let's hope he's turned the corner.
Another bat that needs to wake up in hurry is the bat of Alex Rodriquez. A-Rod hit .125 in the series with no home runs or RBIs. But the biggest thing about Rodriquez in the series was that in the bottom of the ninth in game three the Yankees were trailing 2-1 and manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for him with Raul Ibanez. Wow ! What a gutsy move by Girardi. Well it paid off. Ibanez hit a home run to tie it and would later hit his second bomb in the bottom of the 12th for the walk off 3-2 win. If you thought that move by Girardi was a shocker he then benched A-Rod in the decisive game five. I hope this move doesn't ruin A-Rod for the next series.
The Yankees will now take on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship which begins later tonight at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were 6-4 against the Tigers this season. Andy Pettitte ( 0-1 3.86 ) will get the start in game one and that's all we know right now. Joe Girardi has not set his starting rotation for this series.
The Tigers will counter with right hander Doug Fister in game one. Fister was 10-10 this season with a an ERA of 3.45. In his one post season start against the A's Fister got a no decision going seven innings giving up two runs, striking out eight with two walks. Fister made one start against the Yankees this season going 6.1 innings giving up 8 hits, 2 earned runs, one walk and 4 strikeouts. Tigers manager Jim Leyland will go with Anibal Sanchez ( 9-13 3.86 ERA ) in game two. Game three the Yanks will face one of the best in the game Detroit's ace Justin Verlander ( 17-8 3.74 ERA ). In the division series Verlander dominated the A's going 2-0 with an ERA of 0.56 with 22 strike outs in 16 innings. Hey let's look at the glass half full. If the Yanks sweep the Tigers in four games the will only see Verlander once !! One can only hope.
In this series the Yankees certainly have to hit better than they did against the Orioles. Other than Verlander Detroit's pitching staff doesn't scare me. Even though they were third in the AL with an ERA 3.75 and second in strikeouts with 1318 I just feel they can be beat. This will probably be a battle of the bullpens. I think the Yanks have the edge. The question is who's closer will get the job done ? Yankees closer Rafael Soriano has yet to pitch in a post season save situation. Tigers closer Jose Valverde (0-1 16.20 ) blew a save against the A's the other day and admitted afterwards that his arm is tired.
One player that definitely scares me and just about everybody else is Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. This year Cabrera won the Triple Crown hitting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. Don't give this guy anything to hit. He will crush it ! If the Tigers load the bases and Cabrera's at the plate. Walk him. I don't care walk in a run. I'd rather give up one run instead of four !
This should be another fun series. If the Yankees hit a little more and pitch like they did in the division series than they should be able to win this series. But once again this offense needs to get hits in big spots. We don't need home runs every time. Just give me a single with a runner on second or third that's good enough.
Let's Go Yankees !! Let's Go Yankees !!