by Charlie Miller
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
New York at Detroit
The mighty Yankees on the cusp of elimination? Believe it. Will they force the Tigers back to Yankee Stadium on Thursday? Not likely. I mean, how comfortable can manager Joe Girardi be putting the Yankees’ fate in the hands of A.J. Burnett? To his credit, Burnett responded from an 11.91 ERA in five August starts to a respectable 4.34 ERA in five September starts. But you have to believe that the Tigers are licking their chops.
It’s not like Rick Porcello, on the mound for Detroit, is much better. He improved a 6.82 August ERA to 3.55 in September. Porcello was a winner on May 5 against the Yankees and Burnett, but not too much can be read into that. Burnett didn’t face any of the three outfielders likely to start for Detroit tonight. Likewise, neither Derek Jeter nor Alex Rodriguez started the game for New York.
Both bullpens should be in play tonight. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera for New York have been solid and should the Yankees bridge the gap to the eighth inning, the Yankees have an advantage. Joaquin Benoit has been okay, but Daniel Schlereth has been shaky. Even though Jose Valverde has a save and closed out the other win, the game turned into an adventure with him on the mound. Can Papa Grande continue to walk the tight rope?
I keep expecting the Yankees veterans of many championships to get the big hit that turns the game. But that era in Yankees lore may be over. Jeter, the hero of postseasons past, struck out in the ninth representing the tying run in Game 2. He whiffed again with the tying run on second to end Game 3. And the torch may not have been completely passed to Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson from Jeter and Jorge Posada.
It was the Tigers’ Delmon Young with the heroic hit yesterday, a seventh inning home run off Rafael Soriano. Somehow the Tigers seem more energetic and youthful than the Yankees. I don’t see this series going back to New York.
Texas at Tampa Bay
New York at Detroit
Philadelphia at St. Louis
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie.