NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: The New York Yankees take batting practice before their game against the Detroit Tigers in Game Two of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 2, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Thursday night, Doug Fister and the Detroit Tigers face Ivan Nova and the New York Yankees, and they'll fight for all the marbles. Here are things each team doesn't need to do in order to win and advance.
You've probably heard that we're into rare territory now, as three of the four division series have advanced to a decisive fifth game. Friday, the Diamondbacks will try their damnedest to shock the Brewers, and then that game will immediately be pushed aside and forgotten when the Cardinals take on the Phillies. It's all very high drama.
Thursday, in the other league, the Tigers and Yankees get the spotlight completely to themselves. There is but one game tonight, after which one very good team will move on, and one very good team will go home. Unless the Tigers win, in which case one very good team will move on, and one very good team will stay home. Although the game isn't all about the starting pitching, the Tigers will be hoping to all hell for a strong effort from Doug Fister, and the Yankees will be hoping to all hell for a strong effort from Ivan Nova. Aces they're not, but fine pitchers, they are.
We're counting down the hours until the first pitch, when all the drama will unfold. However, pregame is the time for analysis, and some of you might be wondering about certain things each team will have to do to defeat the other. Following is an incomplete list of things that are not those things:
- Three times in this series, the visitor has scored in the top of the first inning. Two of those times, the visitor has gone on to lose. Given those odds, the Tigers will want to go down as quietly as possible when they first come up. It will lull Nova into a false state of confidence, and the Tigers will be able to strike later on.
- Did you know that the Yankees finished with the highest batting average on bunts in all of baseball this season? The Yankees batted .522 on bunts! If every single Yankees batter bunts, if they just bunt all the time, they should knock Fister out and pile up the runs.
- This is a really important game - it's a Game 5 in a best-of-five series, after all - and there's going to be a lot of pressure on all of the players to perform as well as they possibly can. Because of that, it will be imperative for the players to stay loose and not worry about the stakes. If the players want to stay loose, they should listen to "Steal My Sunshine" a bunch, because I think it's impossible to be stressed out when you listen to "Steal My Sunshine".
- On May 27, in a hostile environment, Tim Wakefield held the Tigers to five hits and two runs over seven innings of work. Nova should be able to achieve a similar level of success if he and Russell Martin mix in the knuckleball often enough to keep the Tigers hitters off balance.
- Any given pickoff attempt to first base stands some non-zero chance of succeeding. The Tigers should intentionally walk every Yankee batter and then keep throwing over to first until the runner makes a mistake and gets out. In this way, stamina permitting, the Tigers should throw a shutout, and will need to score just one run to win. They will want to back up the first baseman with several other defenders so that the ball isn't thrown away, while the second baseman should stand directly on second base.
- One time I watched a John Mulaney stand-up special filmed in New York and he brought down the house, so the Yankees should use him somehow to whip the Yankee Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
- Joe Girardi will draft a starting lineup with Doug Fister in mind, and the Yankees hitters will spend all day preparing to face Fister for six or seven innings. If Jim Leyland replaced Fister with Brad Penny after one pitch, he could catch the Yankees with their pants down.
If the Yankees and/or Tigers do all or some of these things, they will not improve their chances of winning the game. They might make their chances of winning the game worse. These are not keys to the game at all. The game begins at 8:07pm Eastern.