The rainout of Friday night’s heavyweight bout between the Tigers, led by Justin Verlander, and the Yankees, led by CC Sabathia, is a curve ball for managers Jim Leyland and Joe Girardi. Further, it’s quite a bit disappointing for baseball fans across the nation who wanted to see the two aces do battle in prime time.
Leyland has already filled us in on how the rain will affect his plans for the Tigers’ starts. He will still use the same four-man rotation, and Fister will still pitch Saturday night. The difference is that, because Saturday night is now game one, Fister now figures to pitch twice in the series if necessary, with his second start coming in a potential game five. Max Scherzer will start game two Sunday afternoon on regular rest, then Verlander will throw at home in Monday night’s game three, eliminating any possibility that he could return to start again in the ALDS. Rick Porcello’s status remains unchanged, as he will still start game four on Tuesday. The main issues here for Detroit are that Scherzer will start on the road instead of at home, where he figured to have more success, and Fister will pitch twice instead of Verlander.
The Yankees, who planned to use a three-man rotation, will hurt a little more thanks to mother nature. Like Fister, Ivan Nova remains scheduled to pitch Saturday night in what is now game one. Freddy Garcia remains the next scheduled starter, but his start, like Scherzer’s, will be moved a day up and from Comerica Park to Yankee Stadium. When questioned about whether Sabathia starting Sunday was a possibility, Yankees’ skipper Girardi replied “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.” If Sabathia fails to change his manager’s mind, it is likely that New York’s ace will oppose Verlander in game three on Monday night. This means that Sabathia, like Verlander, will be unavailable for the remainder of the series, as game five is scheduled to take place just three days later. Nova should still make his second start of the series in game four on Tuesday, but the Yankees could be forced to use a fourth starter at some point. As Buster Olney notes, Girardi is probably leaning toward using much-maligned A.J. Burnett.
Keep in mind, this involves a bit of speculation on my part, as Girardi remains undecided, at least publicly, as to how he will handle his rotation beyond Sunday. This also, of course, is assuming that the rain stays away and the rest of the series proceeds as planned; the forecasts don’t look too promising. If Saturday night gets rained out, the teams could end up playing five days straight, as major league baseball has ruled out postseason double headers.
So which team is worse off? The Tigers, who will pitch Scherzer on the road and potentially Fister in game five instead of Verlander? Or the Yankees, who basically sacrifice Sabathia’s second start and will likely give Burnett a start instead? For me, the answer is, without a doubt, New York.