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Early thoughts prior to Game One

AT&T
The field at AT&T Park is set for batting practice prior to Game One.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Where's Tom Jolls when we need him? It's positively salubrious out here by the Bay, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s as we get set for Game One of the World Series. The first pitch on FOX is at 8:07 as Barry Zito pitches against Justin Verlander.

The lineups are out and they look like this:

Detroit: Jackson, cf; Infante, 2b; Cabrera, 3b; Fielder, 1b; Young, lf; Peralta, ss; Garcia, rf; Avila, c; Verlander, p
San Francisco: Pagan, cf; Scutaro, 2b; Sandoval, 3b; Posey, c; Pence, rf; Belt, 1b; Blanco, lf; Crawford, ss; Zito, p

---Be sure to read my story in Thursday's paper on NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, who was a Bison from 1997-2000. Scutaro was a deadline-day acquisition from Colorado.

"I had no expectations when I got here," he said. "As soon as you get traded, you start thinking about stuff out of baseball. family, where to live, packing quick. Days later, you start really seeing what's going on with the team, the teammates. After a couple days, I was thinking I had a very good opportunity to do something special with this team and to be in the playoffs."

---With no games played yet, there's no burning issues to ponder. A lot of the pregame time was spent talking to Game Two starters Madison Bumgarner and Doug Fister, a Northern California native who grew up a Giants fan.

Bumgarner was downright churlish at times during his media session. Maybe he's got a right to be. A 16-game winner in the regular season, he got drilled twice in the playoffs. But he threw eight shutout innings in Game Four of the 2010 World Series in Texas so manager Bruce Bochy is going back to him.

"I feel good about Madison," said Bochy. "He's had a great year, he's done a great job for us since he's been up here, including postseason. This is a small sample on a couple hiccups he had earlier, and I think he's getting some much needed rest and some time to work on making a couple adjustments in his delivery. 

"Sometimes you get out of sync and it's better off taking a little bit of time and trying to sort that out, which he's done. So I look forward to watching him tomorrow."

---My favorite quote from Media Day was Jim Leyland's thoughts on managing star players: "Whether a guy is making $60,000 or $6 million or $16 million, if he was a good guy, he was a good guy. If he was a jerk, he was a jerk. I've got good guys. My superstars are good guys, and so are my other guys that aren't superstars. They're good guys.

"But I've believed that all my life. The economics of it has nothing to do with it; the superstar status has nothing to do with it. If a guy is a good guy, he's a good guy. If he's a jerk, he's a jerk. Fortunately I don't have any jerks."

---Nothing I've heard in the last two days changes my mind. Verlander is an unquestioned and almost unhittable ace. I like the Tigers tonight. Then we'll see.

---Mike Harrington

Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Today's coverage: I've made my pick, time to make yours

Verlander
Tigers ace Justin Verlander was all smiles on Media Day. (Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's a partly sunny morning by the Bay and the weather is not expected to be any issue for Game One of the World Series tonight. There's a 30 percent chance of rain this morning, followed by clearing skies in the afternoon and temperatures around game time (5:07 p.m. Pacific) are expected to be in the high 50s. 

There was lots of chatter going on Tuesday at Media Day and we'll have more with a live chat here at 2 p.m. Eastern.  Here's a look at today's coverage:

---Tigers ace Justin Verlander has the power, passion and poise that has made him the most dominant pitcher in the game.

---The Giants were still coming down of their NLCS Game Seven high when they met the media Tuesday.

---I picked these two teams to be here in our preview section in March, so who do I think ultimately wins the matchup? You'll have to click the link to find out. And be sure to click your choice below in our poll.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

World Series live chat -- 2 p.m.

Media Day recap

Miggy
Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was a popular interview subject Tuesday. (AP Photo)

SAN FRANCISCO -- For a recap of World Series Media Day, listen to Mike Harrington's audio report from AT&T Park.


World Series Media Day
(Click here to download)

Rotations set for World Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- Media Day has just concluded at AT&T Park (we're on Pacific time, remember) and I got some tight print deadlines but I can give you the key nugget that developed with the pitching rotations:

Game One: Justin Verlander vs. Barry Zito
Game Two: Doug Fister vs. Madison Baumgarner
Game Three: Anibel Sanchez vs. Ryan Vogelsong
Game Four: Max Scherzer vs. Matt Cain

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Tim Lincecum would pitch out of the bullpen in this series. Meanwhile, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Verlander would not start three times but would start Games One and Five. That, of course, would leave him available in relief for a Game Seven appearance (think Randy Johnson, 2001).

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

No rest for Giants: Win NLCS Monday, host World Series Media Day today at AT&T Park

Marco
A downpour is no problem to former Bison Marco Scutaro as he celebrates the Giants' victory and holds the NLCS MVP trophy aloft. (AP photo)

28,000 FEET OVER KANSAS -- Tweeting and blogging from a laptop on a plane en route to the World Series. Sometimes, this corner lives an odd existence. 

We're en route to taking our hearts to San Francisco, where the Cardinals had theirs broken last night in a 9-0 bludgeoning in Game Seven of the NLCS. That put the total count at 20-1 in favor of the Giants over the final three games and was eerily reminiscent of the 1996 NLCS when the Cardinals suffered a 32-1 pounding at the hands of the Braves in dropping the final three games. 

OId friend Marcos Scutaro, a Bison from 1997-2000 who didn't make the major leagues until he was 26 years old, was named the NLCS MVP. Quite a story. 

There's no time for the Giants to rest and celebrate, however. Today is Media Day for the World Series at AT&T Park, as the Giants and Tigers meet reporters in a Super Bowl-style setting with each player getting his own table and reporters mingling through the room. MLB started this by accident in 2009 because it had the Great Hall of new Yankee Stadium at its disposal and it's proved to be a rousing success.

But because we'll be on the West Coast, the session will be much later than normal, running from 6 p.m-8 p.m. Eastern time.

Keep it here all Series long for notes and quotes and pictures and podcasts and sights and sounds of the City by the Bay and Motown. Flying onward.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

NLCS Game Seven: Somebody will LOSE -- finally

So you wanna be a sportswriter? Sure, it's fun. You see great games and meet great people. But sometimes you're in a pickle a ton of East Coast scribes like this corner find themselves in: A suitcase packed, two sets of hotels, two sets of airline reservations, nowhere to go until at least 11 p.m. tonight. And maybe later. 

For that, we have the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants to blame -- and to congratulate. The last two World Series winners stage Game Seven of the NLCS tonight in AT&T Park and it's because neither of them will go down this postseason.

This will be the Cardinals' third straight winner-take-all showdown on the road (the wild-card game in Atlanta and Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington) and they've won the first two. Even more incredibly, this is the Giants' sixth win-or-go-home game this month (three in Cincinnati in the NLDS and now three in this series). 

Who has the edge? A tough call. You'd think it would be with the Giants, with Matt Cain on the mound and momentum in hand. But they're just 2-3 at home in the postseason -- and 0-5 overall all-time in Game Sevens. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have won six straight winner-take-alls in the postseason to tie the MLB record they set from 1926-67 (their last loss was in the 2001 NLDS to Arizona). 

I'll pick another miracle finish for the Cardinals, minus perhaps a goofy infield fly call. Make your pick below.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

NY Post knocks it outta the park

HIGHWAY 401, ONTARIO -- Made a stop on the drive back from Detroit and got a few tweets that said I had to check this out. Those jokesters at the New York Post were at it again this morning.

How about this for a shot at A-Rod on a cover? A classic.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

NYPost

Final ALCS thoughts

Prince
Prince Fielder lets the champagne fly in the Tigers' clubhouse (AP Photo)

DETROIT -- Lots of points to ponder after the final installment of the Motor City Mashing. I picked the Tigers to make the World Series in March, so I was not surprised to be in their clubhouse in October as the champagne was getting sprayed all over. But to be in there after a sweep of the Yankees? Unthinkable. Here's some thinking out loud:

Pitching: Detroit starters were basically unhittable, giving up just two runs in the four games. Let's see how the Cardinals (or the Giants, if they can come back) handle them. Power fastballs, sharp sliders. Nasty stuff. Justin Verlander starts Game One Wednesday in the NL city and could go three times in the World Series. The Tigers are a favorite. Also, kudos to manager Jim Leyland for finding a temporary closer in Phil Coke. Jose Valverde has a few more days to straighten himself out.

ARodA-Rod: He's the center of the media attention and you gotta say he handled the masses awfully well the last couple of days. Does anyone really believe Joe Girardi wanted to sit A-Rod and play Eric Chavez in an elimination game? No way. A-Rod seemed to realize that too as he referred to the Yankees' GM as "Cashman" (not Brian) several times after the game. The whole thing seemed punitive. Pretty basic moral: Don't preen for female fans' phone numbers during the game.

Remember, A-Rod was dropped to eighth by Joe Torre for the final game of the Yankees' 2006 division series loss here. He never forgave Torre but it was a seminal moment in his career; he hit 54 home runs the next season.

"I gotta look in the mirror. I sat in this room in 2006 and some of you guys were here and there were a lot of doubtors," he said. "I said I was going to get back to the drawing board and I did. I came back with a vengeance in '07 and I'm looking forward to the same thing."

Oooooooooooooooooook. You're six years older now. Two straight subpar years. (OK, no PEDs either). Don't see it happening.

The A-Rod/Joe Girardi dynamic: Both sides said they didn't see any huge need to mend fences. Rodriguez is clearly blaming management for his benching, not the manager. 

"As far as I know, we're OK," Girardi said. "It's not something I wanted to do all -- you know that. But I don't have any signals that he's mad at me. I know he wanted to be in there. I understand that. But I don't have any signals. Now, if there are things that I have to do, I'm going to do them. "

Robinson Cano: He finished the season 24 of 39, then went 3 for 40 in the postseason. Yes, it was a major slump but he wasn't facing the Blue Jays, Twins and Red Sox anymore either.

"That one is kind of baffling for me," Girardi said. "Because we have seen the type of hitter that Robby Cano is. For him to struggle as long as he did, and it seems a lot longer than it actually was, we're talking about nine games. And nine games during the course of the season you say ahhh, but to see it, it's pretty difficult for me to understand."

Media mob: There's nothing like covering the Yankees in the postseason. The old adage of "no tent big enough for this circus" applies. We were piled into the visitors clubhouse with no noise but the water of the showers when it was announced A-Rod would speak in an adjacent room. Everyone bolted back out of the room and scurried down the hall. Cracked a Yankees security official: "Cue the Bugs Bunny cartoon."

What's next: Media day for the World Series is Tuesday at either Busch Stadium or AT&T Park. I'll be there. Thanks for reading in this series and follow along with our full coverage on the scene next week.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNharrington 
(A-Rod photo: Getty Images) 

Live from Comerica: ALCS Game 4

DETROIT -- There's been so much talk here at Comerica Park, most of it A-Rod related, that it's easy to forget we haven't seen a baseball pitched for real in nearly 41 hours. 

That's finally about to change with Max Scherzer meeting CC Sabathia in Game Four (it's on TBS). And just like last night, no A-Rod and no Curtis Granderson.

Said Joe Girardi in his pregame media briefing today: "Our decisions aren't made on a whim, they are based on a lot of stuff that we see and information that we have.  ... Would I love to be in a position where I didn't have to make changes?  Absolutely.  But there's been some real struggles in our lineup, and we had to do something."

About all the rumors swirling around A-Rod, Girardi tried to simply bring the focus back to today's game: "Anytime you have a player of Alex's stature, there's ‑‑ it's going to be a hot button.  He is going to be talked about a lot.  And that's something he's had to deal with for a long, long time. I don't get caught up. 

"Our focus is here, not what will happen next year, what will happen two years down the road.  That would be silly for me.  I think it is silly for all of us.  No one knows what tomorrow holds for any of us."

As for today, keep it here for my in-game thoughts. Reminder that we're not allowed to do batter-by-batter updates but you can follow the pitch-by-pitch log here.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

MaxTop-1st: The first pitch by Scherzer (left) to Ichiro was a strike at 4:08 p.m. The temperature is 59 degrees. A real factor now is that we're in bright sunshine. The late-afternoon sun could be a real problem for hitters. It was a 1-2-3 inning, featuring strikeouts of Swisher and Cano, but the Yankees did foul off 10 pitches and Scherzer threw 19. Cano fell to 3 for 37 and Swisher 4 for 27 in the postseason. In this series, Cano is 1 for 15, Swisher 2 for 9.

End-1st (1-0, Tigers): Detroit touches Sabathia for a run on Young's two-out RBI single to right. Game over? The way the Yankees are hitting, don't laugh. The inning started with an infield single from Omar Infante, who beat out a chopper to third. Chavez fielded cleanly but threw late. Of course, lots of would-ARod-have-made-that play? Sabathia fanned Jhonny Peralta to leave runners at the corners but needed 23 pitches in the frame. 

End-2nd (1-0, Tigers): Six up, six down for Scherzer. Four Ks, including Chavez (now 0-15, 7Ks in the postseason). Mind-boggling bad hitting by the Yankees. Sabathia gave up a hit and walk in the bottom of the inning and has left four on through two -- but he's also needed 41 pitches. His offspeed stuff is oddly flat. Tigers left 10 on in Game Three and it nearly cost them in the ninth. They're at it again.

Mid-3rd (1-0, Tigers): The Yankees' first threat goes down as Swisher takes a 96-mph fastball for a called third strike (what was he looking for?) to leave runners at first and second. Nunez reached on a two-out error by Fielder, who simply flubbed a nubber up the first-base line, and Ichiro walked after an 0-2 count. Scherzer up to 55 pitches. Yankees need to keep working counts to get into the bullpen.

CCEnd-3rd (2-0, Tigers): Sabathia should sue for non-support, both at the plate and in the field. Teixeira booted a Fielder grounder -- that was ridiculously scored as a hit -- and then booted another one by Dirks that was properly scored an error. Rookie Avisail Garcia, who spent most of his year at Double-A Erie, than overcame an 0-2 count to collect an infield single that Nunez basically spiked into the ground near short, and brought home Fielder. No. 9 hitter Gerald Laird worked the count to 3-1 before flying to right. An astonishing 73 pitches for Sabathia through three. The Tigers have left seven.

Mid-4th (2-0, Tigers): Scherzer has a no-hitter with 7 Ks going. Just whiffed Texeira and Ibanez. 

MiggyEnd-4th: (6-0, Tigers): It's over. Two-run homer by Cabrera on a first-pitch fastball, two-run homer by old friend Jhonny Peralta on a hanging curveball. Sabathia mercifully taken out after a Dirks double. He gave up six runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings -- and ESPN just tweeted he's the first pitcher in postseason history to give up 11+ hits while recording 11 outs or fewer. Incredible. The crowd went nuts when Cabrera cranked his bomb, with the "MVP, MVP" chants rocking the ballpark and he showed them some love in return (above).

End-5th: (6-0, Tigers): Scherzer's no-no intact with nine Ks. But he's at 83 pitches, coming off shoulder trouble and has a World Series to come. No way he goes the route. The Yankees are about to be swept in a best-of-seven for the first time since the '76 World Series vs. Cincinnati. They're going to be the first team in history to never lead in a seven-game series.

End-6th: (6-1, Tigers): Nunez broke up the no-hitter with a triple to left-center and scored on Swisher's one-out double (nice for him to get a hit in that spot, huh?). A two-out walk to Teixeira ended Scherzer's day and he left to a roaring standing ovation as he tipped his hat to the crowd. Drew Smyly came on and faced .... A-Rod!!. Pinch-hitting for Ibanez and with everyone in the park standing, A-Rod lofted a lazy fly to center for the final out. The Tigers have left 12 on base and are 2-10 in RISP situations.

End-7th: 7-1: An Austin Jackson homer on the second pitch from Derek Lowe adds to the rout. Six outs left for the Tigers. Phil Coke coming on in the eighth. Wonder if Jim Leyland runs Valverde out there in the ninth with a six-run lead?

End-8th, 8-1: Old friend Jhonny Peralta took David Robertson deep for his second homer of the day, a solo shot to left. He's had a great series, both at the plate and in the field. I bet Cabrera is named MVP but Peralta is close. After winning the IL MVP with the Bisons in 2004, Peralta came within a game of going to the World Series with the '07 Indians. He's finally going there now. The only other Detroit shortstop with a multi-homer game in the postseason was Alan Trammell in Game Four of the 1984 World Series against the Padres at old Tiger Stadium.

It's over: An 8-1 Tigers win and a long winter of reflection for the Yankees. It's the 11th AL pennant for the Tigers.

Same lineups, different weather for Game 4

DETROIT -- It was windy and drizzling early this morning in the Motor City. By 11:30, it was pouring. But the forecast is holding and less than three hours before the first pitch of rain-delayed Game Four, the sun is out at Comerica Park and we should be good to go for a 4:07 start.

And there's this nugget of news: Both teams are using the same lineups. That means, just like last night, no Granderson and no A-Rod for the Yankees.

It will be Ichiro, lf; Swisher, rf; Cano, 2b; Teixeira, 1b; Ibanez, dh; Chavez, 3b; Martin, c; Gardner, cf; Nunez, ss

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Game Four postponed: What it means the rest of the series

Rainout
The grounds crew puts the tarp on Comerica Park as the scoreboard shows an ugly weather radar of impending rain. (AP Photo)

DETROIT -- I've seen plenty of rainouts in 20+ years of covering Triple-A and Major League Baseball. Usually, however, it's raining for a game to get banged.

That wasn't the case Wednesday night at Comerica Park, where MLB decided to call off Game Four between the Yankees and Tigers "in an effort to preserve the integrity of an uninterrupted, full nine-inning game."

Fair enough. Don't blow starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Max Scherzer in a one- or two-inning performance. Problem was they could have easily played five or six innings -- and maybe more -- because it was barely sprinkling at 10 p.m. But I get it. That said, if we had played six and got suspended, the Yankees could have had a huge advantage if things finished with a battle of the bullpens. Won't happen now.

More thoughts from the rainout:

The rotation: The Yankees take a hit here as GM Brian Cashman confirmed there's no way CC Sabathia would pitch on two days rest in Game Seven, if the series actually got that far. The Tigers, meanwhile, would have Justin Verlander on his regular day.

(Yes, this was a big postgame topic. I say there's ZERO chance of Game Seven and you can quote me 2004 -- I was there -- but this Yankees team is simply not hitting. The '04 Red Sox scored seven runs in the opener of that ALCS and eight in Game Three before finally getting their pitching together.)

The lineup: Do the Yankees change their mind and give A-Rod or Granderson a shot tomorrow afternoon? Doubt it. I think Joe Girardi stands pat with the same he was planning for tonight.

The series schedule: The Yankees played five straight tough games in five days -- three in the division series and two in the ALCS. They finally got an off day on Monday and didn't play again Wednesday. They would now need to win four games in four days to take the series, as there will be no off day prior to a potential Game Six in New York.

The forecast for Thursday: It's not good but we can sit and wait all night with a 4:07 scheduled first pitch. It does get better as the day and night moves along.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Bulletin: Weather delay for ALCS

DETROIT -- They've just announced at Comerica Park tonight's game will not start on time due to "weather in the area." We had already surmised something was going because CC Sabathia and Max Scherzer were not warming up.

It was a beautiful, 71-degree day full of sunshine in the Motor City. But the forecast deteriorated during the day and rain that was supposed to come at 2 a.m. is now supposed to hit at 9:30 or so. The radar is pretty ominous.

Although it was clear at 8 p.m., the betting is that neither team wanted to burn their starting pitchers playing two innings and then stopping.

Stay tuned.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

A-Rod benched again for Game 4

Arod presser
Alex Rodriguez was swarmed on the field prior to Game Four. (Photo tweeted by Jerry Crasnick/ESPN.com -- @jcrasnick)


DETROIT -- Yankees GM Brian Cashman had a remarkable 14-minute meeting with the media this afternoon to talk a little about Derek Jeter's surgery and a lot about the continued benching of Alex Rodriguez, who is again out of tonight's lineup.

"We will go forward. Alex will go forward," Cashman said. "... When you're going through the tough times, it doesn't have to be the end all and be all. Opportunities will exist to continue to get back off that mat and get back in the ring and battle. And Alex is going to wait for that opportunity. Right now it looks like in theory we'll do that against left handed pitching, right now, in this particular time, in this particular moment.

"That doesn't mean that he's done; that he's finished; that he is not capable. He is still a big threat, but for whatever reason right now we are adjusting to what we are seeing."

There's plenty of reports out there that the Yankees understandably want out of A-Rod's contract. Cashman said "100 percent false" when asked if there's been any talk with the Miami Marlins, like ESPNNY.com is reporting.

Manager Joe Girardi was quick to defend A-Rod when YES Network play-by-play man Michael Kay pointedly asked him if A-Rod was a "shot player."

"I don't think he is a shot player," Girardi said. "I think he's a guy that's going through some struggles, similar to what Grandy has went through the last month and a half or whatever. And there's some things that you have to try to fix and get him going, and we'll continue to do that with both of them."

What does A-Rod think of all this?

"Bottom line is any time I'm in any lineup, I think that lineup is better and it has a better chance to win," he said before the game. "So, we'll disagree there today. And I like Joe [Girardi], I support Joe." 

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Bulletin: Jeter headed for surgery

DETROIT -- This just in a few hours before Game Four of the ALCS: The Yankees have announced Derek Jeter is going to have surgery on his injured ankle Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.

The kicker here is the recovery time is listed as 4-5 months. That could put Jeter well into March, certainly meaning he won't be ready for spring training and won't play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. It could even put Opening Day of 2013 in doubt.

The Yankees, remember, were hoping Jeter would avoid surgery and listed a three-month timetable when the injury happened Saturday night in Game One.

7 p.m. update: Yankees GM Brian Cashman said this is a more conservative timeline but that the 4-5 months is when Jeter would be ready to play in games.

"There is no new information," Cashman said. "... Nothing seen worse than what our team doctor saw. But in terms of the timeframe, I just think wanted to be more conservative with it. So that's what we're going to go with. My understanding is that it's possible he will be ready earlier than that timeframe, but it is best to at least put out there four, five months as a safer bet."

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

 

ALCS numbers tell the story; Kobe tries to cheer up A-Rod

ARod dugout

Alex Rodriguez's only view of Game Three was from the dugout (AP Photo)

DETROIT -- Statistics often lie. These don't.

Detroit Tigers starting pitchers have an 0.96 ERA in the postseason (six earned runs in 56.1 innings) and an 0.42 mark in the ALCS against the Yankees (one earned run in 21.2 innings). Justin Verlander did the job Tuesday, working into the ninth inning as the Tigers posted a 2-1 win to take a 3-0 lead in the series.

Wrote Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press of Verlander's dominance in the early innings: "A lawn mower doesn't flatten things this easily."

The Yankees are batting .182 in the ALCS and slugging at a pathetic .291 clip. They have five runs and have scored in just two of 30 innings (the ninth inning of Game One and Game Three). They are batting .200 overall in the postseason.

No wonder the Tigers can complete a sweep tonight in Comerica Park. It's Max Scherzer and CC Sabathia, an ace looking to extend the Yankees' season.

The Yankees have a wee bit of an issue in how to deal with Alex Rodriguez after his Game Three benching. A-Rod stayed silent Tuesday and the New York Post's latest story about his Game One dugout dailiances won't help in that regard. Joe Giradi has oddly understated A-Rod's issues ("SOME struggles"?) but GM Brian Cashman was front and center Tuesday and seemed to be taking charge. 

ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Kobe Bryant about A-Rod Tuesday and Kobe revealed what he said to A-Rod about the benching: 

"I just say to him, 'You're Alex Rodriguez. You're A-Rod. You're one of the best to ever do it,'" Bryant said. "I think sometimes he kind of forgets that and wants to try to do the right thing all the time. Which is the right team attitude to have. But other times you really have to put your head down and say, 'Hell with it' and just do your thing.

"Hopefully the next game they'll kind of give him a chance, maybe put him back at third and let him respond to the pressure, which I think he'll do."

Bottom line from the Post's Joel Sherman: You can't win if you can't score.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

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 

Live from Comerica: ALCS Game Three

DETROIT -- The Yankees' bizarro lineup is in and Justin Verlander is ready to take the mound for the Tigers in Game Three of the ALCS. MLB credential rules prohibit play-by-play updates (you can follow the pitch-by-pitch here) but we'll have plenty of inning-by-inning thoughts here.

Recapping the lineups:

Yankees: Gardner cf; Ichiro, rf; Teixeira, 1b; Cano, 2b; Ibanez, dh; Martin, c; Chavez, 3b; Granderson, cf; Nunez, ss
Tigers: Jackson, cf; Berry, lf; Cabrera, 3b; Fielder, 1b; Young, dh; Dirks, rf; Peralta, ss; Avila, c; Infante, 2b

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

End-1st (0-0): The first pitch from Verlander to Gardner, a 94-mph fastball, was taken for a strike at 8:08 p.m.  The temperature is 53 degrees with a chilly breeze. The Yankees were retired 1-2-3 (4-3, K, F8) on nine pitches. So much for working any counts. Hughes gave up a single to Berry and a walk to Fielder but got out of the inning on a screamer to right by Young. Hughes needed 18 pitches and the Tigers were making good contact.

End-2nd (0-0): So much for the Yankees' strategy to work counts. Verlander has retired all six men he's faced on only 20 pitches. Hughes was much better in the second, going 1-2-3 as well. All the offense in the NLCS has looked funky compared to this series. No question two runs likely enough for Verlander if the Tigers can swing them.

End-3rd (0-0): Verlander making it look stupid easy. Nine up, nine down, 33 pitches, 24 strikes. Chavez had the best at-bat yet, working the count full before lofting a fly ball to center. The wind is picking up (temp dropping) and it's blowing in. Too much acreage here. Your only chance for a HR is down the lines.

Hughes is starting to struggle but still making key out pitches. He allowed a one-out single to Jackson and a walk to Cabera (who was down 0-2). Fielder then took three balls before cracking the 3-0 pitch on a line to Granderson for the third out. Hughes at 50-30. Huge for him to escape there.

Mid-4th (0-0): Gardner popped out on a full-count pitch. Ichiro went 3-0/3-2 and then lined a single through the left side to end the perfect game on Verlander's 48th pitch. But Teixeira popped foul to third (great running catch by Cabrera who had a long way to do while in the shift) and can made it 0-for-28 by bouncing in a force. Verlander at 54 pitches through four. Leyland's plan for a closer will be Verlander at this rate. Still, a much better inning for the Yankees, forcing him into 21 pitches.

End-4th (1-0, Tigers): Detroit takes the lead as Young cracks a leadoff homer to left on a terrible hanger from Hughes. A 79-mph curveball on a 1-2 pitch and Young roped it through the wind. Hughes then left the game with an apparent injury while pitching to Andy Dirks. No word from the Yankees yet although TBS is saying it was a back problem. David Phelps got out of the inning by getting the final two men (Infante fly ball, Jackson fielder's choice) after there were men on first and second.

Hughes line: 3+ IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 1K 61-36

Mid-5th (1-0, Tigers): A tweet from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:  asks "... is this the largest 1-0 lead in MLB history?" Sure seems that way. Verlander has his one-hitter going. He's at 68 pitches, hitting 95-97 regularly. Crazy easy.

End-5th (2-0, Tigers): Berry led off by reaching on an error by Chavez at third. Cabrera doubled him home with a slicer to right-center that Granderson completely misread and let roll to the wall. And two runs feels like 10 against Verlander. Nice play by Nunez at short saved another run and got the Yankees out of the inning. The Tigers have left on eight. It could be worse. 

Mid-6th (2-0, Tigers): Verlander has pitched to one over the minimum and has a one-hit shutout through six. The Yankees are getting into some good counts but can't take advantage. Granderson was 3-0 leading off, got to 3-1 and popped out to third. Verlander at 81 pitches through six. Just two strikeouts. Getting the job done. Still at 97.

End-6th (2-0, Tigers): Boone Logan, the fifth Yankees pitcher, keeps this one alive by getting Cabrera to ground into a double play with the bases loaded. Nice pick by Chavez at third to start the 5-4-3. The Tigers have left 10 men on base and are just 2-10 in RISP at-bats.

Mid-7th (2-0, Tigers): Ichiro led off with a single and never moved. Teixeira flied to left, Cano extended his hitless streak to 0 for 29 (0 for 29!) by striking out on a 98-mph heater and Ibanez scored one that Fielder corraled on a hop at first. So Verlander has a two-hit shutout going but he's at 101 pitches (65 strikes). Should be able to go 120-125. Does Leyland possibly use his bullpen here?

End-7th (2-0, Tigers): Yankees still holding on. No complaint on the pitching. The hitting? Heh. The only hope seems to be if Jim Leyland somehow has a braincramp and goes to Valverde.

Mid-8th (2-0): A 1-2-3 inning. Verlander cruising. 

TIGERS WIN 2-1: The last inning of a game crunching newspaper deadlines is not the best time for a blog post to simultaneously go belly-up, so apologies there. I'll have some other thoughts in a separate post but it's a 3-0 lead for Detroit and a looming sweep tomorrow.

 

Bulletin: No A-Rod or Swisher for Yankees tonight

DETROIT -- So here it is. The Yankees go into a pivotal Game Three tonight in Comerica Park and Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher are on the bench. And deservedly so. Wow.

Joe Girardi certainly followed along with voters in our poll from earlier today. Brett Gardner leads off and will make his first at-bats since April.

The lineup:

Gardner 7
Ichiro 9
Teixeira 3
Cano 4
Ibanez DH
Martin 2
Chavez 5
Granderson 8
Nunez 6

A left side of Chavez-Nunez with ARod out and Derek Jeter hurt. Crazy. 

6:30 p.m update: Girardi on the moves -- ""You would think with the resumes these guys have and the type of play they've put up during the course of the season that you would have a pretty set lineup."

Girardi said he considered keeping A-Rod in against Justin Verlander but his brutal showing this month against right-handers (0-18, 12Ks) was the deciding factor. Gardner took at-bats yesterday in a simulated game in Yankee Stadium and is needed in the vast outfield here with Phil Hughes, a flyball pitcher, on the mound. He said A-Rod is out for performance, not because of the NY Post report he tried to get a female fan's phone number during Game One.

Said Girardi: ""When you have one or two guys struggling in a lineup, you're probably still scoring some runs so it doesn't become as noticeable and you're not talking about it as much and you may not be making some changes. When you have a lot of guys struggling and you're not scoring runs, it's something we're going to talk about."

---Mike Harrington

 

Yankee Doodles: What in the world do you do with the lineup?

ARod Ks
A-Rod flips the bat after another strikeout in Game Two. 

DETROIT -- Just imagine you're Joe Girardi right now. No one other than Raul Ibanez is hitting, you're in an 0-2 hole in the ALCS and facing Justin Verlander tonight in Game Three at Comerica Park. 

Teams go through slumps all the time in the regular season. Normally, you just wait them out, give a guy a day or two off here and there and the course naturally gets reversed. But under the playoff spotlight, everything is different. And, of course, there's no time for days off or waiting. The Yankees, for the most part, are stuck with what they have and it's an ugly set of numbers. Check them out. 

Regular season: .265 BA, 4.96 RPG, .453 SLG, .337 OBP, .790 OPS
------------
Postseason: .205 BA (53-258), 20 R (2.86 RPG), .326 SLG, .277 OBP, .603 OPS
ALCS: .192 BA (15-78), 4 R, 20 Ks, .308 SLG, .276 OBP, .584 OPS.

Postseason individuals
Cano:
2-32 (.063), .125 SLG, .091 OBP, .216 OPS
Granderson: 3-26 (.115), 14 Ks, .231 SLG, .207 OBP, .438 OPS
A-Rod: 3-23, 12 Ks, no XBH, .130 SLG, .330 OPS
Swisher: 4-26, 8 Ks, .192 SLG, .233 OBP, .426 OPS

ALCS individuals
Cano:
0-10
Granderson: 0-7, 5 Ks
A-Rod: 1-7, 3 Ks
Swisher: 2-8, 3 Ks

Joel Sherman of the Post says about the best hope is for the Yankees to invoke the Spirit of '96. Remember, in the 1996 World Series against Atlanta, the Yankees dropped the first two games at home by a combined 16-1 and recovered to win four straight. The catcher on that team? Joe Girardi. Hmmm. 

But frankly, there aren't a lot of great lineup options. Brett Gardner has had just three at-bats all season but he's better defensively and a faster runner than Swisher -- and how can his plate appearances be any worse? If A-Rod sits tonight against Verlander, how can he play tomorrow against fellow righty Max Scherzer, considering he's 0-18 with 12 Ks against righties in the postseason?

SwisherGranderson is simply swinging at everything and getting to almost nothing and Swisher (left) is likely on his way out of town after another postseason flameout and what appears to be a bitter breakup Sunday in Game Two with his beloved Bleacher Creatures in right field at Yankee Stadium.

What a spot for Girardi. I'm betting Gardner is in and Swisher is out, with Granderson keeping his spot to see if he can catch lightning in a bottle in his old park. Maybe A-Rod gets tonight since he's had some success in his career vs. Verlander.(.333 average, 3 HRs; 4-6 w/2HRs this year). Maybe he DHs and Eric Chavez (9-25 vs. Verlander) goes to third. Mike Vaccaro of the Post says A-Rod should stay in tonight and get one last chance to channel his inner 2009. For what it's worth, Donald Trump tweeted A-Rod should donate his salary to charity. Easy for him to say.

The one guy who's had no career success against the Tigers' ace? It's the red-hot Ibanez, who is just 3-29 with no HRs. But can you really put him on the bench?

ESPNNY.com's Andrew Marchand has been a proponent for days of benching Swisher and putting in Gardner. He says that's a must for Game Three.

What do you think? Pick all that apply below in our poll. And be sure to stay tuned later today for my coverage direct from Comerica.

---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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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