Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Yankees notes on an off day before Game Five

Here are some off day notes prior to Game Five which is tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium.  The game is at 8:00PM.  Ivan Nova will go up against Doug Fister, these are two young guys getting their first cracks at the postseason.  They pitched in game one, the suspended version.  Nova was terrific and Fister was pretty good in the beginning but the final results don't look so good.  It is an intriguing matchup.  The Yankees have a rested bullpen where they will surely use their main two guys for nine outs tomorrow and maybe even more.  The Yankees would love to get six strong out of Nova and then use their strong bullpen to finish it off and send them to the ALCS.  The Yankees of course will also hope that their bats have come alive feeding off their late inning magic last night. 

While Joe Girardi left no doubt that he expect CC Sabathia to be available out of the bullpen tomorrow, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the exact opposite about his ace Justin Verlander. Leyland said Verlander will not be an available reliever for Game 5.  It is two completely different managers each at a different point in their careers.  Girardi is still towards the beginning and more cautious and Leyland has been around for a long time and just tells you whatever he has to say and doesn't worry about it. 

“That’s just the way it played out,” Leyland said. “I don’t think it’s disappointing. I’m thankful everybody got to see him. To be honest with you, our fans got to see that game that Verlander pitched. So it worked out pretty good. No problem.”

Of course, that’s easy for Leyland to say now. Hard not to wonder whether his opinion might change if he gets in a big spot tomorrow night. Regardless, it’s clear that Verlander’s impact on this series has been minimized.  It would be hard for me to not use Verlander if I was him but he is still young and you don't want to abuse the guy. 

“The one thing that you can’t predict is what would have happened in Game 1 if it was Verlander against CC,” Girardi said. “Who knows where we would have stood. So it is what it is. Is it a break? I don’t know, I really don’t, because we can’t go back in time and say what would have happened. ”

“When I say he’s laid back, I don’t mean there’s not fire inside of him,” Girardi said. “His personality is just not loud. It’s not boisterous. It’s not real emotional. He’ll show a little emotion on the mound, but not a whole lot. I love this kid’s determination. His determination to get better. His determination to be a part of this staff. To never go down again. To win. That’s what I see. He’s a very hard worker, and it’s paid off.”

 Nova on whether he feels pressure for tomorrow’s game: “I don’t see the reason to feel pressure. It’s another game. Of course, it’s the most important game of the season now, but that’s the game that right now a lot of people are waiting for. Everybody, like my family, everybody wants to see that game. Everybody want to see me do a really good job. Like I always say, if you get nervous, you’re going to be in trouble, because you can’t control yourself. You can’t control what you got to do. I don’t see the reason why.”

 Girardi said everyone is available out of the bullpen tomorrow, even A.J. Burnett if things get really crazy. “A.J. would probably be the one guy you would have to be careful,” Girardi said. “But I would say in case of emergency he’s available, too.”  I think you could see CC but the Yankees are hoping for six out of Nova, a lead and then to use Robertson and Mo to finish the game off.  The Yankees could even use Soriano and Logan earlier like in the sixth and CC if they have too. 

Jorge Posada leads the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and walks through these first four games. “Jorge has been through this so many times in his career,” Girardi said. “And (he) understands the magnitude of each at-bat and how to approach each at-bat. That’s why we went with him.”  It is amazing to see how he finished and turned what could of been a sad and unhappy ending into a nice finish to his career if this is indeed the end. 

Also making a big impact at the bottom of the Yankees order is Brett Gardner, who’s hitting .385 with some big hits in big spots. “I talked about that with my pitching coach this morning before we left,” Leyland said. “He’s done a great job. He’s been real pesky. I think sometimes you get through that big part of the order and all those big guys, and maybe you lose your concentration a little bit. He’s a bear-down guy. He’s a real hard-nosed player and everything. A real determined guy. We’re going to have to do a better job.”  I would agree with that, you kind of forget about him since you are so worried about Arod, Tex, Cano. 

 The middle of the Yankees order finally showed some signs of life last night when Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher all got hits during that big eighth inning. “When it’s the postseason, you’re supposed to get a hit every time,” Girardi said. “The superstars are supposed to do no wrong, and you’re supposed to be able to ride on their backs. But that’s not the way the game works… What happens is if you continue to have good at-bats, you’re going to get your hits.”  This was the biggest development for the Yankees in my opinion.  I think they will now relax in Game Five and if they are hitting watch out, it is a very hard lineup to get through and they could roll along in the playoffs. 
Leyland said he has Max Scherzer available tomorrow night, but ultimately his bullpen will be a little thin. “I would like to get through this game tomorrow with Fister, Coke, if necessary, Benoit and Valverde,” Leyland said. “There’s no secret to that. That’s what we would like to get through the game with.”
 Leyland announced that Don Kelly will be the Tigers starter at third base tomorrow night. Kelly will be the Tigers third different starting third baseman this series. Leyland said he would like to to shift Kelly to right field for late-inning defense, with Brandon Inge taking over at third.

Here is Girardi on tomorrows must win game: “This is what we fought so hard for during the course of the season. You have two very good teams playing tomorrow night. Unfortunately, one of us is going to go home. And that’s the hard part about this game, because your season is going to end so abruptly, in a sense. But we’ve worked hard to get to this point. We feel good about our starter. They probably feel good about their starter. And time is going to tell.”

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