Hershiser: Yankees have the edge (with related story)

Some questions and answers about Game 5 tonight in the Tigers-Yankees series.

Some questions and answers about Game 5 tonight in the Tigers-Yankees series:

Are the Tigers doomed because they’re playing the decisive game at Yankee Stadium?

Smoltz can relate

John Smoltz can relate to the pressure the pitchers may feel tonight. Click here.

Not at all. Many times the Yankees’ postseason has ended with a defeat on their home grounds — most recently when Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and their Indians teammates eliminated the Yankees in Game 4 of the first round in 2007. Other instances of Yankees’ postseasons ending at home include Game 7 of the 1926 World Series against the Cardinals (Babe Ruth caught stealing to end it), Game 7 of the 1955 World Series against Brooklyn, Game 3 of the 1980 championship series against Kansas City (George Brett taking Rich Gossage into the upper deck), and Game 6 of the 1981 World Series against the Dodgers.

What’s the key for the Tigers to not getting psyched out by all the tradition and history at Yankee Stadium?

Veteran big-league pitching coach Rick Petersen put it best. A visiting team at Yankee Stadium must remember that it’s playing the Yankees players, not the Yankees uniform and all the Hall of Famers who have won world championships in it. It’s hard enough to beat Jeter, Teixeira and Cano without thinking about Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio.

The Tigers’ two victories in this series were close. The Yankees’ two victories were blowouts. Does that mean the Yankees likely will win this decisive game?

Not at all. Look at the 1960 World Series. The Yankees’ three victories were 10-0, 12-0 and 16-3. The Pirates’ four victories came by a combined seven runs.

What do the Tigers need to do to win?

“Have a crisp game,” catcher Alex Avila said. “Get a quality start from Doug (Fister) and basically limit mistakes and capitalize on theirs. We’ve got to get to Nova (Yankees starter Ivan Nova) a little better than we did that first time.”

The Tigers can’t allow the Yankees free access to the bases on walks, errors or missed double plays. “At this time of year,” said long-time manager Bill Rigney, “baseball becomes a game of getting outs.”

But do the Yankees have some momentum after their 10-1 blowout in Tuesday’s Game 4?

Former All-Star pitcher Orel Hershiser, who is broadcasting this series for ESPN, said after Game 4: “The momentum is all in the Yankees’ favor because their offense is on track now and because their relievers have all had positive work and they all feel good about themselves and they have had their right amount of exercise. In the Tigers’ bullpen, (Al) Alburquerque and (Daniel) Schlereth aren’t feeling good about their outings.”

As Hershiser noted, the ideal scenario for the Tigers tonight is Fister handing a lead in the seventh or eighth to Joaquin Benoit, who hands it in the ninth to Jose Valverde.

“I just think the Tigers have a big hill to climb now,” Hershiser said. “The Yankees have the home-field advantage. I like Nova’s off-speed stuff, where Fister didn’t have a feel for his secondary stuff in his first game in this series. He’s got great movement, and he pitched better than his numbers, but he still didn’t pitch as well in his first game as Nova. So it’s going to be a really, really good game, but I think the Tigers have a higher hill to climb.”

How can a team overcome having a higher hill to climb?

“The Tigers have to switch the momentum by getting off to a fast start,” Hershiser said.

So they need something like the two-run homer Miguel Cabrera hit in the first inning of Game 2 at Yankee Stadium?

“Yes. They need a spark. If it’s 0-0, the Yankees are still going to have their confidence and the Tigers are going to be looking to get the momentum back.”

Mariano Rivera usually pitches only one inning. Could he pitch more than one tonight?

That wouldn’t be a surprise. In his 15 years as the Yankees’ closer, according to Baseball-Reference.com

, he’s made 27 postseason appearances of at least two innings. Rivera is rested; in the last week, he’s thrown three pitches.

If the game is at all close in the late innings, you have to expect Rivera to pitch — either to maintain a lead, maintain a tie or make sure the Yankees don’t fall farther behind.

Other than who wins, what makes a winner-take-all postseason game more interesting and different than any other game?

It’s how managers use pitchers in ways they never would in the regular season or even in a playoff game that’s not a must-win. Starters could pitch in relief, and relievers could work in different innings than they ever would in the regular season.

Just look at the first inning of Game 4, a must-win for the Yankees. After A.J. Burnett walked the bases loaded in the first — before he’d allowed a hit — the Yankees had a reliever warming up.

Why would CC Sabathia be available in the bullpen tonight and Justin Verlander isn’t? They both pitched Monday.

Verlander threw 120 pitches Monday — a difficult 120 — and Sabathia threw 106. Sabathia has shown an ability to pitch on short rest. Jim Leyland justifiably guards Verlander like a great natural resource. He wants to make sure he stays healthy for a long career and never suffers an arm injury because he was overused.

Did you know Thursday is the second anniversary of the Tigers’ 12-inning loss in the tie-breaker game in Minnesota?

Why did you have to bring that up?

Categories: -Sports, News

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