MLB Playoffs 2011, New York Yankees vs Detroit Tigers: The Most Important Game 1

September 30, 2011   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Tonight the Major League Baseball postseason begins as the American League Divisional Series gets under way: Tampa Bay in Arlington versus the defending American League champion Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers in New York City to take on the New York Yankees

The game in New York quite possibly holds the fate of the entire series in its hands. The Yankees enter the playoffs with home field secured through the entire American League playoffs. The Tigers enter the playoffs as Central Division champs—the winners of the American League’s weakest division. 

The real key to this game is in the pitching matchup. The Tigers send Cy Young lock and potential AL MVP Justin Verlander to the mound. Opposing him is the Yankees’ ace, big lefty C.C. Sabathia.

Verlander has been the motor behind the Tigers for the entire season. Yes, Miguel Cabrera is an MVP candidate as well and the lineup is not a one-man show. The Tigers also have Victor Martinez, Delmon Young and a cast of offensive players who won’t be easy outs for any pitcher. 

This is still Verlander’s team though.

The Tigers have a 25-9 record when Verlander has taken the mound this season. His numbers are outstanding even in a season that featured unusually strong pitching.

Verlander won the triple crown of pitching, leading the league in wins (24), strikeouts (250) and earned run average (2.40). He also led the American League in WHIP ratio, with a stunning .920. His season featured a no-hitter—the second of his career—and there was never any slump or slide in the trajectory of this year for Verlander. 

Put simply, the Tigers must win tonight and Verlander must be effective. It’s not that the rest of the rotation in Detroit is not capable, but without home field there will be no way to understate the pressure that will fall on Doug Fister should Verlander and Detroit lose tonight.

Detroit’s season cannot be allowed to hang in the balance with Doug Fister on the mound on the road. 

Conversely, the Yankees must also win tonight. Yes, home field is nice and, yes, Ivan Nova has been better than even the most optimistic Yankee fan would have predicted this season. Yet no one rooting for the Pinstripes would feel good about Ivan Nova being the wall between heading back to Detroit down 0-2 in a best-of-five series, with Verlander ready to go in the Bronx for a potential Game 5.

The Yankees aren’t all that different from Detroit in that they feature an ace and a Cy Young winner at the top of a rotation that is filled with other question marks. For the Yankees, the question marks surround a group of veterans who are all plagued by varying degrees of inconsistency.

For the Tigers, the rest of the rotation features young pitchers that lack experience and, like their older counterparts on the Yankees roster, are plagued by their own bouts of inconsistent play. Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer are all young and very talented and all of them are making their first postseason appearances.

Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett are all veterans. Garcia and Colon are both former aces, but neither are the same type of pitcher they were when they were younger. Injuries and age have begun to catch up with them and their performances have suffered as a result.

A.J. Burnett’s issues are well documented. He won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins as a 26-year-old, up-and-coming potential ace. He ended up as a Yankee after signing a contract in excess of $80 million in the offseason between 2008 and 2009.

In 2009 he won another ring as a starter for the Yankees. Burnett has never really found his groove in New York though. He’s been plagued by control issues, which have led to spectacularly bad starts.

Both teams lean heavily on their aces and both teams need Game 1. The pitching staff that backs each team’s ace is questionable. In addition, leads should be somewhat safe for both teams. The Yankees feature the greatest closer in baseball history in Mariano Rivera and the Tigers feature Jose Valverde.

Valverde just finished up a perfect regular season, recording 49 saves in 49 chances with not one blown save to blemish his record.

Should the Yanks drop the first game at home, the pressure on them to win Game 2 will be formidable. The same holds true for Detroit. Game 1 and all the implications that come with it is scheduled to start at 8:37 p.m. EDT tonight.

It’s the biggest game of the postseason so far and a pitch hasn’t even been thrown yet.  

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