Yankees set rotation for ALCS vs. Tigers
The Yankees rotation is set for the next three games of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers: Hiroki Kuroda goes in Game 2 on short rest, Phil Hughes pitches on Tuesday against Justin Verlander for Game 3, and CC Sabathia is back on full rest for Game 4.
The thought process for Girardi could be that he figures he will get at least one of the two games or win both contests at Yankee Stadium. When going to Detroit, he would rather not waste a Sabathia start to face Verlander, which could go one way or the other. The Yankees aren't so much conceding Game 3 as they are saying, “We are going to come right back with our ace in the hole in Game 4.”
From there on out, one would figure that it would be -- if necessary -- Pettitte in Game 5, Kuroda in Game 6, and in the biggest matchup of all, if it gets there, Verlander against Sabathia, who would be on short rest at that point for all the marbles.
Although Andy Pettitte, who is the all-time leader in postseason victories with 19, didn't get the win in Game 1, this is the type of scenario that he came back for in 2012.
“I came back to hopefully help this club get into this position, to help this pitching staff, to help take some of the stress off the other starters, and hopefully be able to give us quality starts whenever I take the mound, and give us a chance to hopefully get deep in the games and give us a chance to win,” Pettitte said on Saturday afternoon. “So it's nice to feel like I have been able to do that, whenever I have been able to be healthy and get out there. [I’m] so excited about the opportunity to be in this series, obviously to move along.”
Hiroki Kuroda gets the nod in Game 2 on short rest for the first time in his Major League career. However, when it comes to the postseason, teams have to do what they can to give themselves the best chance to win on any given night, and the Yankees must feel confident enough that he can do it, especially in his comfort zone, Yankee Stadium.
“I am not crazy about it, but there is not really a lot I can do about it, so we have to live with it,” Girardi said about his decision to start Kuroda on three days’ rest. “From what I understand, he has done it in Japan before, and I know that's a while ago. I understand that. But this time of year, guys feel a little bit fresher. I mean, that's the bottom line. You get to this time of year…some life comes back into your body.”
“This is probably the shortest rest that I have ever had in my baseball career,” Kuroda said “But at this point of the season, we can't really be talking about anything but to win.” Kuroda went on to add, “I'm not too concerned. I prepare myself as the next game that I'm going to pitch is my last. I have always taken that approach, so I am just going to do the same for tomorrow.”
Kuroda has been a gem at Yankee Stadium this season and that continued in the first round of the postseason. In 20 starts at the Stadium in 2012, including Game 3 of the ALDS, he is 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA, striking out 104 batters, and opponents are just hitting .217 against him. On the road, he's been a different pitcher. In 14 starts, he was 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA this season.
“I don't know what the secret to my success is in this ballpark, but my style of pitching is to be aggressive and just be aggressive all the time,” Kuroda said. “And I think that has pretty much determined the outcome of how I pitched here.”
The starting pitchers, and the entire staff for that matter, were keys to winning the ALDS against the Orioles. They set a new all-time division series record by having the lowest ERA by a pitching staff with a 1.76 combined ERA. The starters were outstanding, giving up only nine earned runs in 39.2 innings pitched for a 2.04 starters’ ERA. The amount of 39.2 innings is also a division series record for most innings pitched out of a starting staff since division series play began. The Yankees are going to need the starters to come up big once again if they have dreams of making it to their 41st World Series in the history of their storied franchise.