The Tigers took Game 3 of their ALDS matchup with the Yankees, winning 5-4. The game was billed as a pitcher's duel between Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia -- a pairing that was supposed to take place in Game 1 before that game was suspended due to rain. The Yankees got to Verlander early, scoring twice in the first inning, but Detroit's patience ultimately took its toll on Sabathia, who threw 106 pitches while laboring through 5 1/3 innings. Delmon Young's seventh-inning solo home run was ultimately the difference, though Jose Valverde certainly made things interesting in the final frame.
While the Tigers and Yankees were battling on the field, Baseball Nation's writers were analyzing the action. Here are the highlights from their Game 3 live blog:
• The Yankees' lineup has remained consistent in this series, but Jim Leyland made one change from the lineup he used in Game 1, the last time he prepared his team to face Sabathia: instead of Ryan Raburn starting at second base, Ramon Santiago got the nod. Why? Jeff Sullivan explained (emphasis mine):
Santiago is starting ahead of Ryan Raburn, and he's starting because he's 7-for-24 against Sabathia in his career, while Raburn is 4-for-24. Of course, Santiago is 7-for-24 with zero walks and one extra-base hit (a double), and of course this matchup data has been shown to be of negligible value in the past, but there's your explanation, and anything can happen over a one-game sample.
Leyland's hunch worked: Santiago proceeded to pick up two hits and drive in two runs with Sabathia in the game. But we're getting ahead of ourselves!
His first pitch of the game was a high fastball that Derek Jeter grounded right back up the middle for a base hit. That ended the no-hitter before it began, and then Curtis Granderson followed by preventing the shutout as well. In a 1-and-2 count, Verlander gave Granderson a high-away fastball that Granderson plastered into left-center for an RBI triple.
• Sabathia struggled with his control early, to say the least. From Rob Neyer:
CC Sabathia walked four Tigers in the first two innings. Thanks to two double plays, he didn't give up any runs. It also helped a lot that the walks weren't accompanied by any hits.
In case you're wondering, Sabathia had not walked more than four hitters in a game in nearly two full seasons; on the 22nd of April in 2010, Sabathia walked six Athletics.
• Speaking of double plays, five consecutive half-innings had one. Fortunately for Detroit, that didn't stop them from tying the game. From Sullivan:
In the bottom of the third, Sabathia had the bases loaded and nobody out with the heart of the Tigers order coming up, but Cabrera's double play kicked the rally in the throat. Victor Martinez then grounded out to finish the frame.
The good news for Detroit is that Cabrera's double play scored the tying run, and we're even at 2-2 in the fourth. But Sabathia has been on the ropes, and the Tigers have let him off easy.
• The Tigers eventually took a 3-2 lead, and forced Sabathia out of the game. That made Grant Brisbee wonder, did Sabathia just throw his last pitch as a Yankee?
A lot would have to fall into place, so this isn't necessarily a "Fare thee well, CC!" update. The Yankees would have to lose the series, for one. And then Sabathia would need to opt out of his contract, which he can do after this season. He's due $92 million after this year, and he could want to see if he can get a little more guaranteed money as he advances in age. And then the Yankees would have to not be the team who gives him that money. It's unlikely we just watched Sabathia's last game as a Yankee.
You think the Red Sox might throw some money at Sabathia if he hits the market? How is this even a question?
• Verlander continued doing what Verlander does, namely strike guys out. In the sixth inning, Alex Rodriguez could only stand and watch:
• In the top of the seventh, the Yankees scraped together a couple of runs to tie the game at 4-4, but then Delmon Young swung for the fences and put the final run of the game on the board.
During the regular season, Delmon Young hit 12 home runs, and not a one of them flew out to right field. You could argue that not a one of them even truly flew out to center field, either.
During the postseason, Delmon Young has hit two home runs, and both of them have flown out to right field. He hit the first in the first inning of the first game, in Yankee Stadium. He hit the second just a few minutes ago, and it was a big one.
Verlander finished the game by throwing 120 pitches over eight innings, eventually giving way to Jose Valverde in the ninth. Valverde picked up the final three outs, but not before walking Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner and nearly sending all of southeastern Michigan into cardiac arrest. Derek Jeter ended the game with a swinging strikeout, which prompted Papa Grande's surprisingly tame celebration: