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Game Three post-mortems

DETROIT -- Here's what's going through my mind after the Tigers' 2-1 win over the Yankees in Game Three of the ALCS:

VerlyJustin Verlander (left): He's matured before our eyes the last two years. This was a night where he was consistently throwing 96-98 but couldn't get strike three. But he was undaunted and took things all the way until the ninth inning. We haven't seen this in the postseason from anyone since Josh Beckett in 2003. 

"Really my approach was to get ahead and be aggressive and not let anybody score," Verlander said. "That approach kind of went out the window in the fourth.  I kind of fell out of rhythm a little bit and started falling behind guys, and I think that's why ‑‑ not that it matters, but I didn't strike out many more guys.  I was behind everybody and had to throw fastballs and throw fastballs almost down the middle.

"But was able to make pitches when I needed to.  Got some pop‑ups and groundouts and was able to make pitches when I had to."

Verlander knew he was in trouble in the ninth if anyone got on base and the Eduardo Nunez home run, which came at the end of a nine-pitch at-bat, spelled doom for his complete game.

"I think we [Verlander and Jim Leyland] both understood if there was trouble with 130 pitches or so, I would have to come out of the game. And just so happens Nuñez put up one of his best at‑bats, given the situation, I have ever seen, especially with me on the mound.  And then he comes out there and I was hoping he wasn't going to take me out, and he comes out and asks if I can get one more out for him.  And I said absolutely.

"So I knew after I got Gardner out that was the end of the game.  So it wasn't like I was disappointed to see him come out a second time.  I knew he was coming out after that."

IbanezThe Yankees' offense: It is, well, offensive. How about Raul Ibanez hitting against a left-hander and striking out to finish the game (right), with Joe Girardi correctly showing far more confidence in him than having Alex Rodriguez up against a right-hander? 

The lineup switch: The Yankees had some better at-bats against Justin Verlander and ran a lot of three-ball counts. But they never had more than one man on base at a time until the ninth. Interesting that Nick Swisher was on deck when Ibanez fanned rather than A-Rod, who seems completely buried.

Bad omen: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is just the third time the Yankees have played at least three straight games in a single postseason without once having the lead -- and both of those series ended in sweeps (1963 World Series vs. Dodgers, 1976 World Series vs. Reds).

Closers: Jim Leyland said after this one that Phil Coke is not available tonight. Does that mean Jose Valverde gets a chance to get the final out to put his team in the World Series? Another nervous ninth Tuesday but unlike teams like the Nationals and Orioles, the Tigers survived.

JoeGirWhat can Joe Girardi do? Here's what he said: "I can't hit, if that's what you're asking. I wouldn't want to face Verlander, not at my age. So the thing that you do is you keep encouraging the guys and you keep telling them, 'Hey, find a way, find a way to get it done.' 

"And, you know, the one thing about this group that I'm very proud of is they have overcome a lot this year, and there is nothing that has come easy for us. You can start with the first three games of the year, we got swept. 

"And it has been a battle the whole year, and they have found a way to get it done. And that's what we're going to have to do."

Down 3-0: We don't need to tell you the only time in history someone reversed a 3-0 deficit, do we?

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 
Photos: Associated Press 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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