Game 1 of this ALDS is complete, and the Yankees were victorious. Some saw this as a predestined outcome, but I didn't sense much anxiety in the Tigers' clubhouse. There's plenty of ball to be played.
It appears there are also plenty of questions to be answered about this opening game and the series, as a whole. So let's get to 'em in this first edition of the ALDS Mailbag.
The Tigers have lost six straight games, counting the last week of the season. Is there any reason to believe they won't be swept in this series?
-- Jamie, Arlington, Texas
They say the season begins anew when the playoffs start. But if you ask me, a losing streak is still a losing streak.
The Tigers are in more than a little bit of a funk right now. They had a subpar second half made worse by the struggles of the pitching staff in recent weeks. Those struggles were once again evident in Game 1, and the Yankees, obviously, don't have any dead weight in that lineup.
If I'm a Tigers fan, I'd have to be concerned about Kenny Rogers in Game 3. He has a poor track record against New York.
So rookie Justin Verlander, untested in the postseason and unsuccessful in his lone start against the Yankees this year, is given the ball for what amounts to a must-win game Wednesday. As for reason to believe, well, take a look at the bulk of Verlander's performances this season, and you have to be open to the possibility of the kid taking charge.
Why did Joe Torre remove Chien-Ming Wang in the first game when he had turned around and was doing so well?! Deciding to use Mariano Rivera for only one inning means that if we have a pitcher struggle later in the series we are going to have to call on our relievers. Why not leave Wang in and save the relievers' arms?
-- Shaun P., Buckhannon, W.V.
Look to the pitches, Shaun, look to the pitches. Wang threw 93 of them in this start, and Torre felt that was plenty.
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Wang didn't throw more than 96 pitches in any of his September starts. In fact, he threw 87 pitches or fewer in three of those five starts. Torre is being careful with how much he pushes Wang, whose arm is being counted upon for more innings than ever before.
Torre decided to pull Wang in the seventh, when Curtis Granderson was coming to the plate with none on and two out. Torre preferred the lefty-on-lefty matchup presented by bringing in left-hander Mike Myers, creepy "Halloween" music and all.
When is the last time that the Yankees and Tigers faced each other for a playoff series?
-- John B.
Believe it or not, John (and it's probably best that you believe it, since it's a fact), the Yankees and Tigers had never faced each other in the postseason before Tuesday's game.
Considering the Tigers have been around since 1901 and the Yanks (nee the Highlanders) have been around since 1903, I suppose it was bound to happen, sooner or later.
The Tigers didn't lie down after falling behind 5-0. Do you think that could help them Wednesday night?
-- Jim, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Absolutely, Jim. After everything that happened to this club this past weekend -- and Sunday, in particular -- I think the Tigers needed to prove to themselves that they've still got a spark left in them.
Granderson, who came through with three hits in his postseason debut, said the Tigers had to shake off some early nerves in this game, in which a couple of scoring opportunities weren't capitalized on. But once the team began to settle in, it was business as usual at the plate.
Why is Gary Sheffield playing first base? Why wouldn't he DH and Jason Giambi play first?
-- Ron, Bloomington, Ill.
Giambi is somewhat of a shaky fielder, to begin with. Toss in the fact that he has been battling a ligament tear in his left wrist, and Torre opted to DH him. Torre also wanted to have Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon in the outfield -- for some strange reason.
That, in a nutshell, is why the Yankees groomed Sheffield over the last couple of weeks of the season to be ready to play first. Look for the Tigers to try to test his skills at the position by laying down a bunt or two his way.
What was Jim Leyland thinking trying to double steal in the second inning?
-- Patrick, North Andover, Mass.
He wasn't thinking what you think he was thinking. Leyland was opting for the hit-and-run in that situation. Because Wang has a tendency to induce ground balls to the infield, Leyland, with runners at first and second, wanted to remove the possibility of the Yankees getting a double-play ball out of Ivan Rodriguez.
The pitch before the hit-and-run, Rodriguez had the bunt sign, drawing the corner infielders in. When that pitch went for a ball, Leyland turned on the hit-and-run, hoping Rodriguez could punch a ball through the infield. It didn't happen, because Wang threw an unhittable sinker, and Magglio Ordonez was meat at third.