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MLB Playoffs 2011: Who's Hot, Who's Not for Yankees Heading into Game 5

Alison MyersCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2011

MLB Playoffs 2011: Who's Hot, Who's Not for Yankees Heading into Game 5

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    Robinson Cano has plenty to smile about in this picture, as he's been solid so far in the New York Yankees' American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.

    It's all a continuation of a successful regular season—the highlight of which was winning the Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game.

    Some of Cano's teammates have also stepped up when needed in this series. Others, however, are virtually invisible and need to get their acts together if the Yankees want to eliminate the Tigers tonight. 

    Looking toward Game 5, who's hot and who's not for the Yankees as the series heads back to the Bronx?

    Start reading and find out. As always, please let me know if you feel I unfairly rated a player or if I missed out on recognizing anyone.

Hot: A.J. Burnett

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    When Joe Girardi made the decision to pitch A.J. Burnett in Game 4 on Tuesday, Yankees fans had mixed feelings.

    Some decided to support Burnett unconditionally, even temporarily changing their social media profile photos to "Believe in A.J." icons.

    Others, however, felt the Yankees should just pack it in.

    It was probably a better alternative than sending Burnett to the mound, anyway.

    Burnett proved the latter group wrong on Tuesday. In five-and-two-thirds innings, he allowed just one run and four hits, and he finished the night with a 1.59 ERA.

    Give him credit for coming through when the Yankees needed him most.

Hot: Robinson Cano

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    Cano hit a grand slam in the sixth inning of Game 1, which helped give the Yankees an 8-1 lead—they went on to win the game 9-3.

    His second-best performance was in Game 4, when he hit two RBI.

    So far in the postseason, he is 5-of-17 with eight RBI. His stats include a .294 batting average, a .368 OBP and a .957 OPS.

    Cano is proving to be one of the biggest clutch hitters the Yankees have, and he's giving no reason to believe he'll slow down.

Hot: Brett Gardner

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    Through the first four games, Gardner is 5-of-13 and has a .385 batting average with a .429 OBP.

    His best performance so far includes a two-run single in the seventh inning of Game 3.

    Although the Yankees lost 5-4, Gardner's single tied the game and gave the Yankees some extra hope.

    He also had an RBI and two hits in four at-bats in Game 4.

Hot: Ivan Nova

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    Nova made his first postseason start as Game 1 resumed after being suspended by rain.

    The rookie showed he could handle the playoff pressure by allowing four hits and two runs over nine innings. He finished the night with a 2.84 ERA.

    The Yankees now know they can count on Nova, whose performance was praised in New York and around the league.

    In an earlier article, I discussed how having Nova will benefit the Yankees as they search for another World Series championship.

    He has confidence and the ability to stay in games for long stretches, and the Yankees will look for him to match his Game 1 outing with their season on the line.

Hot: Jorge Posada

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    Posada is 4-of-10 so far in the ALDS, hitting an impressive .400 and getting on base 60 percent of the time.

    His best game was in Game 1, when he had two hits in three at-bats.

    In Game 4, he added a run in two at-bats. Can he keep it going in what could be the last postseason of his career?

    Posada's performance has definitely earned him a "Hip, Hip...JORGE!"

Not Hot: Freddy Garcia

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    Garcia pitched in Game 2 but faltered as the Tigers won the game 5-3 and tied the series.

    The veteran pitcher, who was inconsistent during the regular season, pitched five-and-a-third innings, surrendering four runs and six hits and finishing with a 5.06 ERA.

    Going into the ALDS, Garcia had a 6-2 postseason record with the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox.

Not Hot: Alex Rodriguez

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    A-Rod has just one run and three RBI through 14 at-bats in the ALDS.

    His only hits have come in Game 4.

    His poor performance gives him a .143 batting average with a .278 on-base percentage and a .421 OPS.

    This is not the first time Rodriguez has struggled in the playoffs. In 2010, he had a .219 average while hitting three RBI.

    Rodriguez's injury problems in 2011 also saw his regular season statistics go down.

    Although his batting average improved slightly to .276 (up from .270 in 2010). he had 62 RBI as opposed to 125 in 2010 and 16 home runs, down from 30 last year.

    Unfortunately, A-Rod's regular season struggles carried over to the playoffs even though he has stayed healthy.

    He will need to start coming through if the Yankees want to have a long playoff run.

Not Hot: C.C. Sabathia

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    After starting in Game 1 but being forced out by rain, Sabathia's much-anticipated matchup with Justin Verlander was moved to Monday's Game 3.

    However, while Verlander shut down the Yankees' offense, Sabathia had a rare bad night.

    He gave up five runs and eight hits in seven-and-a-third innings and posted a 6.14 ERA.

    While many wondered if he was kept in the game too long, that doesn't take away from the fact that he struggled.

    Sabathia will be in the dugout tonight, but he'll need to improve his performance to give the Yankees an advantage if they advance to the ALCS.

Not Hot: Nick Swisher

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    In the regular season, Swisher had a .260 batting average while hitting 23 home runs and 85 RBI. He also had a .374 OBP in 150 games.

    But in the postseason, it's been a different story.

    Going into Game 5, Swisher is just 3-of-15 at the plate with one run and has a .200 batting average with a .250 OBP. He has just one hit each in Games 1 and 4.

    This is not the first time he's performed poorly in the playoffs, either.

    In 2010, he had just two RBI in 34 at-bats and hit a .176 average.

    Swisher has been around the postseason before, so there is no reason for him to not be able to handle the pressure.

    Can he turn around his misfortunes to lead the Yankees to the next round?

Not Hot: Mark Teixeira

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    Teixeira is my favorite Yankee once you get past all the traditional favorites (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and company), but his awful postseason performance is incredibly frustrating—especially since we know he is capable of so much more.

    So far in the playoffs, he is 2-of-15 and has a dismal .133 batting average.

    He only had one run in four at-bats on Tuesday and struck out once.

    He had no hits through eight tries in the first two games and struck out three times.

    That's way too far of a cry from a regular season where he hit 39 home runs and batted .248 while also tallying 111 RBI.

    Teixeira has one of the biggest contracts on the Yankees, and he needs to make that contract worth it in both the regular season and the postseason.

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