The Detroit Tigers were on the brink of disaster, Jose Valverde blowing a four run 9th inning lead to send the game into extras, only to come back and beat the New York Yankees 6-4 in 12 innings. The Tigers take a 1-0 lead in the ALCS.
Rookie Drew Smyly, appearing in the first postseason game of his career, pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief to receive credit for the victory. The 8th Yankees pitcher of the night, David Phelps, gave up a pair of 12th inning runs to take the loss.
Derek Jeter suffered an ankle injury in the 12th inning and required help getting off the field. The Yankees confirmed after the loss Jeter fractured his ankle and is out for the remainder of the season.
After the game, Tigers' manager Jim Leyland said he would discuss the status of Jose Valverde with his staff and will have "something in tomorrow's pre-game press conference." Valverde may be out as closer.
As for the game itself, it's almost indescribable. But I'll try.
A cagey veteran with a metric ton of playoff experience on the mound for the Yankees. A 6'8" righty coming into his own as a top of the rotation pitcher starting for the Tigers. Game 1 of the ALCS had all the earmarks of a pitcher's duel.
That's what we got. Then we were put through a wringer, cranked by Jose Valverde.
Top of the 1st, Andy Pettitte set down Austin Jackson and Omar Infante without incident. First pitch swinging, Miguel Cabrera ripped a line drive past a diving Alex Rodriguez for a single. Prince Fielder did his Delmon Young imitation, trying to pull a low and outside breaking ball toward the short right field porch. All Fielder ended up doing was striking out to end a 12 pitch inning.
Doug Fister was either nervous, lacking in command, getting squeezed or a combination of all three to open the game.
Fister walked Derek Jeter on four pitches, though two pitches could have been called strikes. Not a good start.
Mark Teixeira fouled off a few pitches, worked a 3-2 count, then walked. ALDS hero Raul Ibanez walked on 5 pitches, loading the bases and sending pitching coach Jeff Jones to the mound.
Bases loaded, A-Rod at the plate. Would he break out of his post season slump? He came close. A-Rod hit a hard ground ball into the hole with RBI single stamped on it. Jhonny Peralta made a diving stop, threw to Infante from his knees, turning a marvelous fielder's choice to bail Fister out of a massive jam.
The Tigers continued their hacking ways in the 2nd. Pettitte set the Tigers down in order on 11 pitches, including strikeouts of Young and Peralta.
Fister looked much better in the bottom of the 2nd, at least for 2 batters. Nick Swisher fouled out, Curtis Granderson struck out. With two down and nobody on, the Yankees proceeded to load the bases...again.
Russell Martin lined a single to left, Jeter followed with a bloop to right. Ichiro pulled off his patented "swinging bunt for a base hit" to load the bases.
Bases juiced with the Yankees' MVP candidate, Cano, at the plate? Things did not look good. Things looked worse when Cano ripped a liner up the middle. The Tigers caught a huge break, and Fister likely a huge bruise, when the line drive ricocheted off the wrist of his pitching hand, bounced to Peralta, who threw out Cano by a half step. Inning mercifully over.
Replays showed Cano was safe, by the way.
We saw the difference between a rookie and a veteran to open the 3rd. Avisail Garcia swung at the first pitch, sending a lazy fly to right for an easy out. Gerald Laird, on the other hand, took a few pitches, worked a 3-2 count, then lined a single past Pettitte.
Unfortunately, Jackson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, another inning over in little more than the blink of an eye.
Despite being drilled in the the wrist by a line drive, Fister took the mound for the bottom of the 3rd. Just like that, Teixeira beat the shift, ground a single past Infante. The Yankees proceeded to...NOT load the bases. Ibanez hit was would have been a home run in a stovepipe, but at Yankee Stadium it was just a mile-high pop out.
A-Rod then pissed off Yankee fans further, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play so easy even the Tigers could turn it.
The 4th inning was more of the same from the Tigers' bats.
Infante hit a slow roller to 3rd, one out. Jeter dived to his left, robbing Cabrera of a single, 2 out. After Fielder singled, Young once again failed in his ongoing attempts at being a legitimate 5 hitter, sending a foul pop to Martin. 3 out.
3 1/2 innings in, the Tigers had not come close to anything remotely resembling a threat.
The Yankees went down 1-2-3 for the first time in the bottom of the 4th, Fister having set down 6 straight batters. He was looking like 2nd half Fister again.
After nearly getting knocked out of the game and Yankees all over the base paths in the first two innings, Fister had come back to allow just a single base runner in the next 2. Either Fister had calmed down or the Cano line drive fixed what had ailed him.
Leading off the 5th, Peralta singled. Could the Tigers finally threaten against Pettitte?
Dirks slapped a lazy fly to left. A completely overwhelmed Garcia struck out on 3 pitches, not getting the benefit of the doubt on a strike 3 checked swing. Laird ended the inning with a looping liner to Jeter.
Fister remained on a roll in the 5th, the top of the Yankees order going down in order.
Austin Jackson swung at Pettitte's first pitch of the 6th and laced a liner landing just fair over 1st base. Hit with a ton of top spin, the ball took a 45 degree hop, catching a part of the fence which juts out into foul territory. Catching a big time break, the ball bounced back toward home plate, just out of the reach of fans. By the time Swisher had run the ball down, Jackson had a stand up triple and the Tigers their first threat.
Infante did a pale initiation of ALCS game 2 Don Kelly. His fly ball to medium right wasn't deep enough for Jackson to tag. Good thing, as Swisher's throw was on the money.
With two bases open, the Yankees elected to walk Cabrera, setting up the force. Fielder, doing a dandy imitation of 2011 Victor Martinez, ripped an RBI single to center, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Young didn't hit the ball hard, but it was in the right place. His dying quail into right dropped in front of Swisher. Cabrera got a great read on the bloop and was rounding 3rd as the ball landed, scoring easily for the 2nd run, Fielder advancing to 2nd.
Peralta had a marvelous at bat, working the count to the point where pitch tracking looked as it it has been riddled with gun fire. Peralta finally worked a base on balls to load the bases. But that's where the good times of the 6th inning ended.
Dirks fell behind 0-2, then flipped a pop up to Jeter. Garcia, looking for all the world like a rookie who has no business playing in the post season, popped up on the first pitch, ending the inning.
The Tigers left runs on the bases, scoring 2 when they had the opportunity for the big inning. Would it come back to haunt them?
Teixeira led of the bottom of the 6th. The shift worked, sending a ground ball to Infante. After playing a flawless 2nd base in the ALDS, Infante committed his first playoff error, fumbling with the ball, unable to make a clean exchange.
Ibanez compounded Infante's error when his high hopper bounced far over the head of Fielder for a 2 base hit. Fister had not allowed a hard hit ball, yet Teixeira was only 90 feet away from home with no one out.
Fister put A-Rod deeper into the doghouse with the Yankees fan base, striking him out. Swisher fell behind in the count 1-2, yet managed to work a walk. Bases loaded...again.
EVERYBODY PANIC! Nah, I'm kidding. Doug Fister doesn't know the meaning of the word panic.
Granderson batted with the bases loaded for the 3rd time. For the 3rd time, Granderson left the bases loaded, Fister striking out the former Tiger on 3 breaking balls.
Martin batted with 2 out and the bases still juiced. Getting a steady diet of breaking balls, Martin fell behind in the count 1-2.
Another wicked breaking ball, another strike out. Just like that, Fister had extinguished the threat, striking out the side.
Doug Fister is one mad magician.
Pettitte pitched into the 7th, getting the first 2 outs of the inning. After walking Infante and Cabrera at the plate, Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled the plug on his starter. He called up Derek Lowe to get out of the inning.
I know what you're thinking. Derek Lowe? REALLY? Before you could even start laughing at the thought of it, Lowe struck out Cabrera on three pitches.
At 96 pitches and having three extremely stressful innings, you had to wonder if Fister would come out for the 7th. Would we see the Tigers' scary bullpen?
Yes and not yet.
Fister struck out Jeter on 4 pitches. But Ichiro reached out and slapped a single to left. That tipped the scales, out came Jim Leyland.
After 6 1/3 shutout innings, 106 pitches and somehow pitching out of three bases loaded situations, Fister received the "Handshake of Doom" from Jim Leyland. We rode the Fister-coaster, and arrived back safely. Hope you kept your head and arms inside the car.
Speaking of roller-coasters, the two run lead now rode on the arms of a bullpen which posted a 5+ ERA in the ALDS.
Now you can panic.
The left-handed Cano at the plate, Phil Coke got the call to arms. Cano fouled off a few 2 strike pitches, then pounded Coke's breaking ball into the dirt. Laird pounced on the swinging bunt to throw out Cano, Ichiro taking 2nd.
Leyland left Coke in to face the right-hand hitting Teixeira. No need panic or for a finger point. Coke gloved the one hop come-backer, tossing to Fielder to leave Ichiro stranded.
Lowe still toeing the rubber, Fielder bounced out to start the 8th. Then...shock and awe.
Young, of course, swung at the first pitch from Lowe. Channeling his 2011 post season heroics, the Tigers' DH yanked a frozen rope around the left field foul pole, just clearing the 318 mark. The stunning solo shot gave the Tigers' a big insurance run and 3-0 lead.
Peralta laced a double into the gap in right center, ending Lowe's evening. Enter 6'5" Boone Logan for the Evil Empire.
Dirk moved Peralta to 3rd with a 4-3 ground out. The lefty on the mound, Garcia remained in the game. He took a pair of quick strikes, then whistled a line drive single past Logan for an RBI single and 4-0 lead.
Insurance runs! A bullpen cushion! OFFENSE! A 4 run lead!
Laird popped up to end the inning. Regardless, the Tigers had did what they had to do. Push across insurance runs. Capitalize on a scoring threat. Put pressure on the struggling Yankees offense. Give the bullpen a cushion.
Given the Tigers' recent bullpen issues and the short porch in right, the more runs the better.
Bottom of the 8th, Coke remained in the game to face Ibanez. The glorified LOOGY ended an excellent night when Ibanez bounced to Fielder.
Despite his not very good 2nd half and postseason, Leyland went with Joaquin Benoit to get the final two outs of the 8th.
Commence the holding of breath.
A-Rod was pulled for a pinch hitter, the left hand hitting Eric Chavez. (A-Rod looked shell-shocked). Benoit tossed a fastball on the outside part of the plate, Chavez crushed it toward the right field power alley. Playing medium depth, Jackson broke at the crack of the bat and took off for the 385 mark. Somehow Jackson ran the ball down at the warning track for a very, very loud out. It was an All-Star, Gold Glove, clutch post season catch.
Benoit got ahead in the count on Swisher, then tossed a split-finger fastball over the heart of the plate. Swisher pulled it, hard. He missed a home run by a foot, Garcia nearly making a miraculous leaping catch. It was neither a home run or a catch, but a double instead.
Granderson, well on his way to joining A-Rod on Yankees fan's list, swung at a first pitch shoulder high fastball. Infante gobbled the ground ball up to end a scary, yet scoreless, inning for Benoit.
As what always seems to happen after making a highlight reel defensive play, that player led off the next inning. Top of 9, the Yankees' once prize prospect who is now an elite centerfielder for the Tigers, Jackson sent a gapper to left center for a two base hit. It was a four base turn around, stealing a double from Chavez, then doubling himself.
Infante tried to lay a bunt down, failed for strike 1. Swinging away, he struck out. Cabrera bounced out 5-3, the reason the Tigers won the Granderson trade taking 3rd. But Jackson was left stranded as Clay Rapada entered the game, striking out Fielder.
Big Potato time.
Bottom of 9, 4-0 Tigers lead, Jose Valverde took over in a non-save situation. God help us all.
Martin lined a single to center for the obligatory Potato base runner.
Jeter at the plate, Martin took 2nd on defensive indifference. Octavio Dotel began warming up.
On a 1-2 pitch, Jeter took and got a ball 2 call. Mere mortals would have been rung up. So Papa Grande got the strikeout the hard way, swinging. Jeter was out number one.
You knew it was going to happen. Down in the count, Ichiro cranked up on a 94 MPH Potato meatball, sending it over the right field wall, making it a 4-2 game.
Cano worked a 3-2 count, then swung through a 93 MPH fastball.
Two outs. The bases were empty, the worst was over...or so we thought.
Teixeira was the Yankees' final hope. He immediately fell behind 0-2. One foul and three balls later, the count was full with Ibanez on deck. High fastball for ball four and Teixeira was on base. Now the tying run at the plate in the hot-hitting Ibanez.
Teixeira took 2nd on defensive indifference.
And as everyone feared, hoped wouldn't happen but expected it anyway, the game was tied on one mighty swing from the Yankees' ALDS hero.
Ibanez launched a Valverde meatball over the scoreboard in right to tie the game. Commence fan base meltdown.
Dotel was ready. Leyland could have had Al Alburquerque ready to go. Yet Leyland and his blind loyalty to Valverde....words fail me.
Octavio Dotel took the mound and struck out Chavez on 3 pitches. OF COURSE HE DID.
Any words I'd like to use here are unprintable. I'm also numb. Yet, the game isn't over. Feels like it, to be honest.
Top of the 10th, Rafael Soriano on the mound, unsurprisingly the still in shock Tigers went down 1-2-3.
Dotel remained on the mound for the top of the 10th. Swisher flew out, but Granderson walked after getting a break on checked swing. Brett Gardner pinch ran, immediately stole 2nd.
3-2 count on Martin, after hitting a ball home run distance but foul, flew out to medium center for the 2nd out.
Jeter at the plate, the Tigers allowed Gardner to take 3rd. Dotel pitched out of trouble, Jeter sending a fly to Garcia.
Still wondering why Dotel wasn't used earlier. Still trying to wrap my head around allowing Valverde to implode completely. Still numb, to be honest.
Top of 11, hard throwing David Robertson pitching in relief, Quintin Berry pinch hitting for Garcia, out 6-3. Alex Avila pinch hit for Laird and singled. Jackson swung like it was 2011, striking out. Infante sent a can of corn to center, inning over.
Exit Dotel, enter Drew Smyly. A rookie starter who was sent to the bullpen as a long reliever and has never pitched in a postseason game.
Ichiro down in the count 0-2, lays the bat on the ball and lifts a single to right. On a 3-2 pitch, Cano sent a fly to Berry for the 1st out. Smyly breaks Teixeira's bat, popping to short for the 2nd out.
Now, Ibanez. Could he do it again?
Not this time. Smyly did his job, ending the inning on a fly to right.
David Phelps, the 8th Yankees pitcher, walked Cabrera leading off the 12th. Instead of finding the Little League porch in right, Prince moved Cabrera over with a swinging bunt.
Young actually took 2 pitches, working the count to 2-0. Forced to throw a strike, Phelps tossed a belt high fastball over the white of the plate. Young crushed it on a line toward right. On a dead sprint Swisher got to the ball, but the line drive was hit so hard it appeared to zip by him before he could get his glove down. Swisher ended up splayed out on the turf, the ball up against the right field wall, Young standing on 2nd with an RBI double and Cabrera having crossed the plate.
Amazingly, after being stunned with an uppercut by Ibanez, the Tigers had taken a 5-4 lead.
Don Kelly ran for Young, Peralta moved him over with an infield single. Jeter made a stumbling grab, but injured his foot, unable to do anything but flip the ball to Cano.
Jeter was in severe pain and was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his left leg. Jayson Nix replaced the injured Yankee captain.
Dirks hit a come-backer off the pitching hand of Phelps, who was unable to make a play. Dirks was credited with an RBI single as Kelly crossed the plate, giving the Tigers a 6-4 lead.
Avila grounded out to end the inning, but the the Yankees were crushed. They had lost both the lead and their leader.
After being given up for dead, the Tigers had hung around and regained the lead.
Going by the body language (and the fact Jeter was injured and they were out of pitchers) Yankees knew the game was over. Their final three batters all but confirmed it, going down meekly. Smyly closed out the game in style, striking out Chavez and Swisher, then inducing Gardner to bounce into a 4-3 ground out for the final, and this time for real, out.
The Tigers win an emotionally exhausting game.
Game now over, the 9th inning has become a referendum on Jim Leyland and Jose Valverde.
Here's the numbers:
Jose Valverde in 4 post season games: 3 2/3 innings, 11 runs, 10 hits, 3 home runs.The last 7 runs allowed by Tigers pitching have all been charged to Valverde.
Valverde's 2012 post season ERA is 31.00.
There's no way Jim Leyland can go with Valverde as a closer from here on out, is there? What am I saying? Of course he'll throw Valverde back out on the mound in a save situation. This is the definition of being loyal to a fault. In fact, "Loyal to a fault" will be Leyland's epitaph.
This blown save is 100% on Leyland. He saw what we all did, and even with he had Dotel ready, left Valverde twisting in the wind.
You have to believe management (that being GM Dave Dombrowski) would be speaking with Leyland about Valverde. Wouldn't they have to have a discussion, no matter what? Valverde's ineffectiveness has escalated into a "situation." Hell, it was a "situation" after game 4 of the ALCS. It's escalated into "You won't get a contract for 2013 if you don't get this figured out by game time tomorrow."
From all accounts after the game, it appears the Valverde "situation" will be handled post haste. I think we'll be seeing someone else in pitching in the 9th when the Tigers are trying to protect a lead.
If I were to venture a guess, it'll be Octavio Dotel.
Bullets are brought to you by a beefy guy drinking booze in a Speedo. Don't judge him.
- The start of ALCS is being played in front of empty seats. Just as in game 5 against the Orioles, the crowd is fashionably late. But this time, fans don't have New York City rush hour as an excuse.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted about Yankee Stadium's short right field porch: "Asked both Leyland, GM Dave Dombrowski separately how many HRs Cabrera would hit annually if YS was his home, and both said the same #: 60." Seems reasonable to me!
- Doug Fister struck out Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin with the bases loaded to get of the 6th. That's $47.5MM if you go by their contracts for this year.
- Criss Angel? Bah. David Blaine? Please. After pitching out of 3 bases loaded jams and not allowing a run, Fister confirmed he is the greatest living magician on the face of the earth.
- Numers via Matthew B. Mowery of the Oakland Press: Coming into tonight, the Tigers were 13-4 when Cabrera drew an intentional walk. After tonight's, Fielder is now 6-for-13 with 7 RBI in plate appearances following Cabrera's intentional base on balls.
- After Fister's 6+ inning stint, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde had given up as many runs in 4 2/3 innings in the ALDS as the Tigers' 4 starters have allowed in 41 innings. As shocking as that sounds, it's not at all surprising.
- Shocking stat of the night: Thanks to his 8th inning big fly, Delmon Young holds the Tigers' franchise record for career post season home runs with six. Young had been tied with Craig Monroe and Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.
- Phil Coke's ERA in four post season appearances is 0.00.
- I don't care if Granderson hit 43 bombs this season. The Tigers won the trade.
- While Omar Infante was batting in the 9th, the TBS crew spent the entire at bat ignoring the on-field action to talk about the A-Rod soap opera. Wonderful.
- John Smoltz on Jose Valverde: "Defense playing Teixeira to pull, yet Valverde throws 2 outside fastballs. Amazing."
- This has been a post season for the ages, yet the ALCS is only 1 game old and the NLCS hasn't started. God forbid what we may see in the upcoming games.
- Leyland: "We've been taking punches all year." "We took one Hell of a right cross."
- Leyland on Valverde: "We’re not going to say anything until we’ve discussed it as a staff, but we’ll certainly discuss it."
Though the pitch graphics show it should be a 2-2, or at worst a 3-1 count, this was a 4 pitch walk for Derek Jeter. This is due to a incurable disease only umpires suffer from known as "Derek Jeter strike zone."
"Derek Jeter strike zone" disease became terminal in his 2nd at bat. This belt high, down the middle fastball was called ball 1.
For comparison's sake, this is Delmon Young striking out on 5 pitches. All 5 pitches were out of the zone, Young swung at 3 of them. The last pitch was in the dirt.
Incredible list, but who is "Wilie Mayes?"
Doug Fister: Didn't have his best stuff, yet willed his way to 6 1/3 shutout innings. Shoulda, coulda, woulda had a victory.
Delmon Young: Say what you will (and I do quite often) about him as a player, Young had a single, double. home run and 3 RBI, including the game winner. We're having a completely different discussion tonight if not for Young's offense.
Jhonny Peralta: 3 hits and excellent defense. Unfortunately, much of what Peralta did was lost in the Valverde kerfuffle.
Octavio Dotel: Came into the game 1 batter too late, then tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief.
Drew Smyly: 2 innings, 1 hit, no runs, and his first career playoff win. Drew Smyly, shutdown closer!
Jose Valverde: In 1 post season, Valverde has burned any goodwill left over from 2011 to a complete and utter crisp. If there was even a 1% chance of returning in 2013, it's 0% now.
Jim Leyland: For hanging Valverde out to dry when it was obvious he didn't have it and a better option was warmed up. Best case scenario, Leyland learned his lesson and will go in a different direction. Worst case scenario, it's the sort of decision which can cost a manager on a 1 year contract his next deal.
Dave Dombrowski: For allowing it get to this point.
ALDS GAME 5 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
In the most one sided voting of the season (for very good reason), Justin Verlander was a near unanimous PotG, carrying 98% of the vote. The vote totals were even more eye opening. Verlander had 468, Omar Infante a mere 8, and there was one Austin Jackson vote to avoid a shutout.