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2011 MLB Playoffs: Burning Questions after Game 3 of the Tigers-Yankees ALDS

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Burning Questions after Game 3 of the Tigers-Yankees ALDS
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Burning questions in the wake of the Tigers’ 5-4 win over the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS:

Was this an “instant classic”?

It was certainly one of the most exciting postseason games the Tigers have played, that’s for sure. It had the feel of an Ali-Frazier boxing match.

The resilience of the Tigers offense is something to behold. The TBS announcers, particularly John Smoltz, talked a lot about “shutdown innings,” i.e. innings a pitcher throws immediately after his team has scored runs.

Justin Verlander passed that test in the eighth inning after Delmon Young’s home run gave the Tigers the lead again.

And Rafael Soriano of the Yankees failed the test, surrendering Young’s homer immediately after the Yankees scored two runs off Verlander in the seventh to tie the game.

But beyond that, from the gutsy performance of Verlander to Brett Gardner’s clutch two-run double to Young’s homer to Jose Valverde’s stressful save, it was a beauty.

What were you thinking after Verlander’s rough start (single/triple)?

I was a little concerned that JV was finally going to have that bad start that he’s overdue for. But he calmed down and really cruised until the seventh. As he told Tom Verducci after the game, “I lost it (rhythm), regained it, then lost it again for three batters,” referring to the two-run seventh.

But truthfully I wasn’t terribly concerned because if anyone can bounce back from that kind of a two-batter start, it’s Justin Verlander.

With all the talk of these two power-packed lineups, it was Brett Gardner and Ramon Santiago who had the big hits tonight (save Young’s homer). What gives?

The beauty of baseball, that’s what gives.

In the 1978 World Series, light-hitting reserve infielder Brian Doyle filled in for the injured Willie Randolph and went ballistic, batting over .400 for the Series. You just never know.

But aside from the sheer odds, Gardner and Santiago are both smart, disciplined hitters. Their respective hits were no flukes. They’re not, well, Brian Doyle.

What’s wrong with Alex Avila?

The announcers said that Jim Leyland said Avila is a little lost. And that’s why Leyland dropped Avila to the No. 8 spot in the order. That, plus the matchup against CC Sabathia is a tough one for the young catcher.

But there’s no question that Avila isn’t swinging with any authority, i.e. confidence.

It’s unrealistic to expect ALL nine guys in your lineup to hit at all times, but it’s uncomfortable to see Avila look so uncomfortable at the plate after the fine year he had.

Ron Darling said catchers are prone to wearing down in the post-season. If any of the eight catchers in the playoffs deserves to wear down, it’s Alex Avila.

Hence the importance of players like Santiago—and Brandon Inge, who had two hits—coming through. It cancels out the struggles of a guy like Avila.

Speaking of Inge, he’s looking OK out there, isn’t he?

He sure drove Sabathia into the left-field alley, which got the Tigers started in the third inning.

And he looked very comfortable at third base and loosey goosey on the field, chatting up Yankees players and the umps. Basically, having fun out there. The Brandon Inge of old.

If Inge can be remotely the player he was before this year’s travails, what a shot in the arm for the Tigers.

Did you know Don Kelly had a “cannon,” according to TBS’ Brian Anderson?

Well, he DID make a great throw from right field in the ninth inning to keep the runner (temporarily) at first base. A lot better than Magglio Ordonez would have made.

Speaking of TBS, John Smoltz kinda called Delmon Young’s homer, didn’t he?

Yeah. Smoltzie said, “Be careful with the first pitch,” and seconds later Young is jogging around the bases after hitting Soriano’s first pitch for an opposite field homer, his second such dinger of the series.

Alex Rodriguez is hitless. He was booed a bit in New York yesterday. Thoughts?

You want me to say that he’s falling back into the A-Rod of old, right? The one who couldn’t produce in the postseason?

He’s had a tough year, and he’s not hitting now, but you always think those types of guys are going to bust loose at any moment. Same with Frank Thomas for the A’s in the 2006 ALCS. He was awful but I kept waiting for him to bust out of it. He never did.

But it’s not just Rodriguez; Mark Teixeira and A-Rod combined are 1-for-21 in the series, according to Darling.

What’s gotten into Jorge Posada?

I don’t know; he’s the Magglio Ordonez of the Yankees—a guy who was this close to being written off, or at least off the playoff roster, earlier in the season. But now he’s hitting as well as he has all year. And when he’s not hitting, Posada is being patient at the plate, drawing walks. The walk he coaxed from Verlander in the seventh inning was epic.

So it’s A.J. Burnett for the Yankees in Game 4 with their season on the brink. Are you comfy if you’re a Yanks fan?

Um, no.

But again, who knows? Maybe Burnett twirls a masterpiece and the series returns to New York.

So are you saying we’re headed for a Game 5?

Nope. In fact, I have a feeling the Tigers are going to lay into Burnett and win a laugher.

But don’t hold me to it.

Typical you; never willing to be held accountable!

Which makes me the same as every other blogger/sports writer out there.

(Come back here in the hours after every Tigers postseason game—played or not—to read me answer the “Burning Questions”)

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