<
>
Insider

Don't count out Sabathia, Verlander

DETROIT -- Doug Fister will start Game 5 for the Tigers in Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, and Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees. But the bullpens will be standing room only, presumably. Freddy Garcia will have his spikes on, as he did at the start of Game 4, at the request of manager Joe Girardi, and so will A.J. Burnett.

The greatest weakness of the Yankees' bullpen all year has been the lack of left-handers, but in Game 5, there will be an additional left-hander with a Cy Young Award on his résumé -- CC Sabathia, who is anxious to contribute after throwing out a stinker in Game 3. There will probably be a situation when Alex Avila, the most prominent left-handed hitter in the Detroit lineup, will be due to hit, and Girardi could turn to Sabathia.

Similarly, Jim Leyland might find himself in need of bullpen help, especially given the struggles of his relief corps. Justin Verlander has made 205 appearances in his career, in the regular season and postseason, and all of them have been starts. He says that in the past, he's volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen, and Leyland has chased him away, refusing to consider the possibility. Verlander joked the other day that he might be inclined to sneak down to the bullpen and get ready to relieve without telling his manager.

On Thursday night, Leyland could be very open to the possibility of using Verlander out of the bullpen. His ace led the American League in innings, with 251, but Verlander is so strong physically that at one point in early September, he had three side sessions between starts in an attempt to clean up some mechanical issues. This late in the year, pitchers typically have only one side session between starts, if any. Verlander is responding so well physically that the other night, 15 of his pitches that were clocked at 99.5 mph or higher -- the most ever for the right-hander.

Fister and Nova both have reputations for being very calm, very much at ease, and they have been tremendous over the past couple of months. But a lot of pitchers will be ready to answer the call, if needed, and Sabathia and Verlander will be among them.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how A.J. Burnett won:

A) Burnett was effective keeping his pitches down. Of his 39 pitches thrown down to hitters, 46 percent were thrown in the strike zone, which is higher than his season average of 34 percent (and his highest strike zone percentage since June 29).

B) Burnett's strike percentage was also higher than his season's average. For the season, his strike percentage is 52 percent on pitches down in the zone, but on Tuesday it was 59 percent. Two of his three strikeouts came on pitches down in the zone.

C) Keeping with the theme of being effective when keeping his pitches down, on Tuesday Burnett was able to get 10 in-play outs on pitches down in the zone -- his highest total of the season.

Ben Francisco was "the man" for the Phillies, getting a huge hit, as Jim Salisbury writes.

Since the division series began in 1995, Cole Hamels has the second-lowest ERA of anyone with at least five starts. Only Curt Schilling was better, posting a 0.93 ERA in five starts.

Lowest career LDS ERA (minimum five starts):

Curt Schilling -- 0.93

Cole Hamels -- 1.82

Mark Mulder -- 2.05

Cliff Lee -- 2.11

Most starts allowing one run or fewer, Phillies postseason history:

Cole Hamels -- 4 (of 13 postseason starts)

Steve Carlton -- 4 (13)

Cliff Lee -- 3 (6)

Larry Christenson -- 2 (5)

Paul Goldschmidt had a huge day for the Diamondbacks, clubbing a grand slam. Shaun Marcum's reaction, at the moment of contact, was priceless: He flipped his glove into the air on the mound. From Tom Haudricourt's story:

In Milwaukee, it was Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson who caught flak for not walking Prince Fielder intentionally in key situations. This time, Roenicke took the opposite tact with Arizona cleanup hitter Miguel Montero, who had doubled and singled and knocked in two runs in his first two at-bats.

Roenicke does not believe in issuing intentional passes but didn't want Montero to get another swing off Marcum.

"Montero scares me," said Roenicke. "I thought it was the right move. I still do. But do I like doing it? No."
Marcum said "it wasn't my decision" to walk Montero but followed orders. His big mistake was throwing a 1-2 fastball at 87 mph right down the middle of the plate that the powerful Goldschmidt took the other way and over the right-field fence for a grand slam that made it 7-1.

"I tried to make a pitch in and missed out over the plate," said Marcum. "That's what good hitters do when you make a mistake, especially him. Give him credit for doing his job."

A changeup specialist who relies on pinpoint command, Marcum has made many mistakes over his last five outings. The beating by the Diamondbacks left him with a 1-3 record and 7.76 ERA over that span and questions about how he has been feeling.

• The Tampa Bay Rays were knocked out by the Texas Rangers, and a lot of the seats in the park were empty. The lack of attendance means the Rays can't get the bats they need.

This has to be a consideration for GM Andrew Friedman, if he is offered the job of general manager of the Cubs. If Friedman is going to jump to a big-market team, the best chance could be now -- if Theo Epstein doesn't beat him to Chicago.

The Cubs have asked for permission to talk to Epstein, who has become the priority for the Red Sox, writes Dan Shaughnessy. Now it's up to John Henry, writes Scott Lauber.

If Epstein stays, it could be with a significantly higher level of compensation. If he leaves, the expectation is that Ben Cherington, the assistant GM for the Red Sox, will ascend into the GM job.

Johnny Damon and B.J. Upton say they'd like to be back with the Rays.

Adrian Beltre mashed three homers in Game 4 for Texas. From ESPN Stats & Info: Prior to his home runs, Beltre was 1-for-11 in this series. His first home run of the game was also his first career postseason home run and it came in his 27th career postseason at-bat.

Beltre has never had a three-HR game in the regular season. He had not homered at all in seven regular-season games and three postseason games against the Rays in 2011.

3-HR performances in the postseason, all-time:

Adrian Beltre -- 2011 Rangers (at Rays)

Adam Kennedy -- 2002 Angels (vs. Twins)

George Brett -- 1978 Royals (at Yankees)

Reggie Jackson -- 1977 Yankees (vs. Dodgers)*

Bob Robertson -- 1971 Pirates (at Giants)

Babe Ruth -- 1928 Yankees (at Cardinals)*

Babe Ruth -- 1926 Yankees (at Cardinals)*

* = in World Series

Of these games, Beltre, Brett and Ruth (1928) are the only ones with three solo HRs in a postseason game.

Beltre outscored the Tampa Bay Rays by hitting three home runs on Tuesday -- all of them off fastballs. Beltre crushed fastballs during the regular season and has continued the trend during the playoffs so far, hitting .332 with 24 home runs against the pitch in the regular season and .333 with three HRs in the divisional series.

Beltre also got impatient on Tuesday. In his four at-bats, he saw only nine pitches -- five of which were fastballs -- and did not see a two-strike count at all. His impatience when he sees a fastball is a trend he has carried with him from the regular season, as he had the second-highest swing percentage vs. the pitch in MLB (56.1).

From ESPN Stats & Info: The Rangers, with their Game 4 win over the Rays, advance to the ALCS and will face the winner of the Tigers-Yankees series. The Rangers struggled against both teams this season, going 2-7 with a .238 BA and 6.69 ERA against New York, and 3-6 with a .275 BA and 4.96 ERA against Detroit.

And today will be better than yesterday.