Justin Verlander wasn’t at his best on Tuesday night, but he sailed through eight innings of two-hit shutout ball before giving up a home run to Eduardo Nunez to lead off the ninth inning and pull the Yankees within a run.

Jim Leyland went out to the mound after Nunez crossed the plate, testing the home crowd with thoughts that the club’s shaky bullpen might be forced into action, but returned to the dugout without taking the ball from his starter, much to the delight of the 42,970 on hand.

Unfortunately for the heart health of those in the metro Detroit area, Verlander lasted only eight more pitches, battling with Brett Gardner for the first out of the ninth, taking his pitch count up to 131 on the evening, and giving way to Phil Coke. The lefty– not usual closer Jose Valverde, who has been awful of late– came in to try and seal the deal for the Tigers, eventually getting there despite giving up back-to-back two-out singles to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, striking out Raul Ibanez swinging to end the game.

It was an uneasy end to a game that, for a long time, seemed to be on cruise control for Detroit– especially after New York starter Phil Hughes exited the game with back trouble, one out after giving up a Delmon Young home run to lead-off the fourth. Even though the Yankees received strong relief pitching from David Phelps, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain– who combined to give up just one run on four hits over five innings– and even though Verlander wasn’t quite his sharpest, striking out only three, things felt pretty good for Detroit most of the way.

And… y’know… entirely sharp or not, he was still Verlander.

Via Brooks Baseball.

The Win Expectancy Graph

Source: FanGraphs

The Reason We Need To Stop Quoting Damn Post-Season Leaderboards Without Reminding People That Until 1968 There Was a Maximum of Seven Playoff Games Total, For Anybody, Per Season, That From Then Until 1995 There Was a Maximum of 21, and This Year There Have Already Been 27, And There’s Still The Possibility of 16 More.

The Awful Thing the Manager Did

It worked, and I suppose it’s hard to quibble after he stuck with Eduardo Nunez to start the ninth, and the Yankee shortstop barely scraped a hanging slider over the wall to finally put his team on the board, with Verlander approaching 130 pitches thrown– and I know Raul Ibanez has been all kinds of heroic for the Yanks this post-season so far, and that Joaquin Benoit was warming up– but…

Phil Coke in 2012: .298 wOBA vs. LHB, .441 wOBA vs. RHB.

Joaquin Benoit in 2012: .308 wOBA vs. both left-handed and right-handed batters.

Raul Ibanez in 2012: .223 wOBA vs. LHP, .343 wOBA vs. RHP.

Alex Rodriguez in 2012: .398 wOBA vs. LHP, .315 wOBA vs. RHP.

The switch-hitting Nick Swisher, with his .374 wOBA against lefties, and his .343 wOBA against right-handers was on the bench as well. So… problem solved? Apparently not.

And sure, obviously the horrible funks A-Rod and Swisher have been in of late needs to be a consideration, and maybe some of the data colouring those numbers from way back in April and May shouldn’t apply, but I just can’t help but wonder how Girardi figures it’s a good idea to leave the hitter with by far the worse platoon split in to face the pitcher with the most favourable outlook for Detroit. Did one one of his binders get swapped for one of Mitt Romney’s binders full of women? [Note: topical!]

The Most Important Play of the Game

See above. The last at-bat of the game was impressively dramatic, and easily the highest leverage situation of the affair. With two on, two out, and the score 2-1, it came down to a scorching Raul Ibanez battling with Phil Coke. You really can’t ask for anything else from a playoff game. Well… except for maybe the names of the guys on the mound and at the plate.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Raymond’s dog on Everybody Loves Raymond Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

It feels like this award probably has to belong to Eduardo Nunez, because– jaw-droppingly– he was the only member of the Yankees able to muster anything offensively, but WPA tells us that it’s not. In fact, it was reliever Boone Logan who contributed the most to the Yankee cause in this one, giving up just a single hit over seven batters faced, and most crucially, coming up with a huge double play ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the sixth, with the bases loaded and the Tigers threatening to finally blow the doors off this one in a way that they seemed certain to for most of the night, but ultimately couldn’t.

The lone hit given up by Logan was to Avisail Garcia– the first hitter he faced, coming in to clean up Cody Eppley’s mess with two on and none out– and after the GIDP he went on to go 1-2-3 in the seventh inning, then retire two more to start the sixth.

Tweets of the Night







Three Stars

1. Justin Verlander: Even not quite his sharpest, he looked like the best pitcher in the game. Or maybe that was just the Yankee hitters. Either way.

2. Delmon Young: Detroit’s all-time post-season home run leader, amiright? Threw in a walk for good measure, which was adorable, too.

3. Phil Coke: It was shaky, and part of me would like to toss Nunez and Logan into this slot, since they were really the only two Yankees to actually show anything, but Coke got the job done when called upon. Eventually.