Wednesday, October 04, 2006

ALDS game 1: Discouraging, but far from hopeless

I have a couple of questions for the Marlboro Man.

Why the hit and run so early in the game? Especially with the free swinging Pudge? I could see running a play with Polanco or Casey, as they can get the bat on the ball consisently. But Pudge is such a hacker, as seen by his awful at-bats last night, it just didn't feel like the right situation. The Tigers struggle to play small ball. Leyland knows that, tried anyway, and failed miserably. It reeked of desperation.

Leyland, what were you thinking? I know you felt the need to make something happen. But you have to play to your team's strengths. And small ball ain't one of them. If you absolutely have to play small ball, try it with someone capable of doing so. I'm asking that you pick your spots a little more carefully...

I had one other issue with the Marlboro Man's strategy. You have a LOOGY for a reason. He rode Roberston at least one batter too long. I know that's been the cigarette smoking man's M.O. all season, to let starters get out of their own jams. But it's the playoffs, and a short series at that. One out can turn an entire series.

In the bottom of the 6th, with men on 2nd and 3rd, and the left handed Abreu coming up, that was the perfect situation to run your LOOGY out of the bullpen. FOX cut to the pen, and you could see that Jamie Walker was up and ready. Instead, Leyland rode Robertson, even though he had been flirting on the edge of disaster for a couple of innings. We all know what happened...

Remember what I said above about playing to your strengths? The bullpen is one of them. So use it!

Despite what Yankee partisans might want to think, they didn't dominate the game. Did Tigers didn't look overwhelmed, or like a team that didn't belong. They do. The Tigers never went away, and made the Yankees sweat the entire game. They had their chances, the Tigers just couldn't convert. I'm looking at you, Ordonez and Pudge. 7 LOB isn't going to cut it from your big money players.

I'm not wearing rose colored glasses. Or blue and orange ones, for that matter. I'm not denying the fact that the Yankees played well, damn well. Their lineup would scare any pitching staff...Throughout history. Their pretty boy shortstop made me eat my words, using the Tigers' pitching for BP. So yes, the Yankees are good, maybe the best in MLB. But they aren't a juggernaut. You can see the crack in the Yankee armor, their middle relief. Get to their iffy bullpen, keep Rivera out of the game, and the Tigers have a shot.

If there is such a thing as a must win game, tonight is it.

For the Tigers to have a chance, Justin Verlander has to come up big tonight. I'm not asking for a shutout against the Yanks lineup, as that would be expecting too much of Cy Young, let alone the probable rookie of the year. But Verlander has to keep the Yankees in check. At least in the park... The question is if he is capable of doing so in baseball's biggest spotlight. The Tigers' season hangs on it.

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