Series: 1-0, Detroit
Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., Yankee Stadium
Tickets: Check for availability from TiqIQ
SB Nation Blog: Pinstriped Bible
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32 ERA)
Tonight marks Kuroda's first career start on less than four days' rest, but his home/road splits more than justify manager Joe Girardi's decision. Kuroda was 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA at home this season and a pedestrian 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA on the road. His peripheral splits weren't quite so severe; Kuroda's home FIP and xFIP were 3.50 and 3.48, while his road numbers were 4.41 and 3.96, respectively. In his only start in the ALDS, Kuroda pitched a masterful 8 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs in a 3-2 Yankees victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Kuroda pitched well against the Tigers in the regular season, allowing five earned runs in 13 1/3 innings over two starts. More impressive was his 9.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span, a trend that will probably continue this afternoon; Kuroda's K/BB rate at home this season was a stellar 3.61. Fun fact: of all the Tigers that have faced Kuroda, the only player without a hit is Rick Porcello.
Sanchez was unfazed by the hostile Oakland Coliseum crowd in his first career postseason start, allowing two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings of work in Game 3 of the ALDS. This continued a remarkable stretch run in which eight of his last nine starts have been quality starts. He has struck out 47 hitters and walk just nine during this stretch. That said, Sanchez's only start against the Yankees this season wasn't pretty: he allowed seven earned runs in three innings in an August 8th start at Comerica Park.
I was very surprised when I first heard that Kuroda would be starting today, especially after the Yankees announced that Phil Hughes would be starting Game 3 instead of CC Sabathia, but Kuroda can now pitch in a potential Game 6 at home on normal rest. That said, pitching Kuroda on short rest when he has never done so before in his career endangers that this series will even get to the aforementioned Game 6. The Tigers offense needs to take advantage. I refuse to use the term "house money" at this point.
Kuroda pitches well early but gets rocked in the middle innings, leaving the game in the hands of the Tigers' bullpen again.