The New York Yankees will fight another day.
...Thanks to a slight assist from Mother Nature.
As I'm sure everyone is well aware by now, Major League Baseball decided to postpone Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. It will be played on Thursday instead:
MLB (@MLB) October 18, 2012
So if the Yankees are to be swept by the Tigers, they shall be swept on Thursday. It's either that, or the Yankees shall say "Not today" on Thursday.
For now, we must ask the obligatory questions. Who does this postponement help more? Who does it hurt more? How will it change things in the end?
To find the answers, we must have an immediate discussion.
Why the Postponement Could Help the Yankees
Over the past few days, one has gotten the sense that everyone who suits up in pinstripes for a living just needs to chill out and take a deep breath. Pressure levels are always high in Yankee Land, but never more so than when the Bombers are staring a soul-crushing sweep right in the face.
If the Yankees did indeed need an excuse to breathe easy, well, they just got one.
The Yankees won't relax too much, mind you, but the day off they've effectively gotten will allow them to approach Thursday's Game 4 as if it's the first game of a whole new series. The first three games will be less of a nerve-wracking reality and more of a bad memory.
Strategy and personnel-wise, nothing is going to change for Game 4. CC Sabathia will still be on the bump, and he'll still be opposed by Max Scherzer. And since it will still be Scherzer on the mound, one assumes that Joe Girardi will stick with the lineup he assembled to face Scherzer on Wednesday night.
This lineup, for the record, did not feature either Alex Rodriguez or Curtis Granderson, according to MLB.com. The two of them can either use the postponement to brood on their own time, or they can use it to get their heads (and their swings) right. I recommend the latter.
If the Yankees do stave off elimination behind Sabathia, they'll have stolen the momentum from Detroit in the series. What would come next is where the postponement could really end up helping them, as the Yankees would get to play the next three games in three straight days without having to worry about an off day killing their momentum. Game 5 would be played on Friday, with Games 6 and 7 taking place in New York on Saturday and Sunday.
So if the Yankees win on Thursday, they could get on a roll that the Tigers could be powerless to stop.
Why the Postponement Could Help the Tigers
The Tigers really didn't need any help from Mother Nature in this series. They already have a 3-0 lead with two more games at home to play with. Provided they don't let this postponement sap their focus—more on that in a moment—they should still win the series.
If there's one person in particular who could benefit from the postponement the most, it's Max Scherzer. He's had plenty of time off since his last start on October 10 in Game 4 of the ALDS against Oakland, but he made it clear in that game that he can use as much rest as possible at this juncture.
Through the first four innings against the A's in Game 4, nobody could touch Scherzer. He allowed only one hit and racked up five strikeouts, and then he picked up two more strikeouts to open the fifth inning.
That's when everything went south. The A's started to battle with two outs in the fifth inning, and Scherzer was ultimately done after five and a third. Jim Leyland said that Scherzer looked "pretty much spent" by the time he was lifted from the game. This despite the fact he had only thrown 91 pitches.
Scherzer's sudden decline in performance and quick hook made it a little too easy to speculate that the shoulder woes he had experienced at the end of the season had cropped up again. If that's the case, then having an extra day of rest before his start in Game 4 of the ALCS can only help.
If Scherzer goes back to pitching like he was in August and early September, he's perfectly capable of matching up against Sabathia.
Even if he doesn't beat Sabathia, the Tigers will still be in good shape. They'll still only need one win to wrap up the series, and they won't have to worry about facing Sabathia again.
And that leads us to our next point.
Why the Postponement Could Hurt the Yankees
I did my best to sell how the postponement could actually help the Yankees, but I doubt that I actually fooled anyone.
The simple truth is this: If this postponement hurts anyone, it's the Yankees. Hands down.
They very well could take the extra time to relax and breathe easy, but that's probably not happening. The pressure not to lose this series, or to at least salvage some dignity, is not going to disappear just because the baseball gods threw some water at Comerica Park on Wednesday night.
However, the real drawback of this postponement as far as the Yankees are concerned is that it has totally screwed up their best-laid plans for their ace. Sabathia will still pitch in Game 4, but that's probably going to be the last time he starts in this series.
Sabathia was scheduled to start Game 7 on Sunday in New York if need be, but that's not going to happen now that the rains have forced his Game 4 start to Thursday. If he were to start Game 7, he'd be starting on only two days of rest.
Yes, that's been done before, most notably by Derek Lowe in the 2004 ALCS. Lowe, however, only threw 88 pitches in Game 4 before taking the mound for Game 7. It's hard to imagine Sabathia being limited to 88 pitches on Thursday.
We could see Sabathia make an appearance out of the bullpen in Game 7 if the series lasts that long, but Girardi is going to have to choose someone else to start. And with Phil Hughes' bad back, Girardi's list of options would be perilously short.
It never was going to be easy for the Yankees to mount a comeback in this series. Mother Nature just made it a hell of a lot more difficult.
Why the Postponement Could Hurt the Tigers
The Tigers still have a 3-0 lead. They still have two more home games to play with. Max Scherzer has been gifted with an extra day of rest. CC Sabathia will not start Game 7 if the series lasts that long.
Seriously, what could the Tigers possibly be complaining about right now? Admittedly, not a whole heck of a lot. For them, there's only one downside to this rain delay that immediately comes to mind.
There's a chance, albeit a very slight one, that the postponement will kill the Tigers' momentum. They were all revved up and ready to sweep the Yankees, and now they have to wait another day.
To be sure, they still know what's at stake, and one assumes that they certainly still want it. Nothing is going to keep the Tigers from being excited about going to the World Series.
They just may not be as excited as they were before when the series restarts. There's a chance the Yankees will be the more amped team of the two when they get the "Play ball!" from the home plate umpire on Thursday.
I can't say I buy this notion myself, but it's worth throwing out there.
So Who Does the Postponement Help More?
I'd say it's fairly obvious. If there's a winner here, it's the Tigers.
We can talk about momentum, energy, mojo and all that zen nonsense, but the one thing that we know has been changed by this postponement is the Game 7 situation. The Tigers will still be able to start Justin Verlander if there is a Game 7, but the Yankees won't be able to start CC Sabathia.
Given the way Sabathia has been pitching these last few weeks, that's a monumental win for the Tigers. They didn't want to face Sabathia again after Game 4 if they could help it, especially not in a winner-take-all Game 7.
It was already hard to see the Tigers losing this series. Now it's virtually impossible to see them losing this series.
Clearly, the baseball gods are on their side.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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