Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, the Tigers will battle the Bronx Bombers for the right to play Texas in the ALCS. Doug Fister will take the mound for the Tigers, and will try and help Detroit stave off elimination.
The Detroit Tigers got their first look at Nova Saturday night, and I will go ahead and make the assumption they were impressed. In a second, I will try and find some things the Tiger’s lineup can do to try and have a little more success against the Yankees right-hander then they did this past weekend.
But back to Fister. New York knows what they are going to get from the 6’ 8’’ right-hander, and I question how much more they can tinker things against him. Fister is very stingy, and with his pitches constantly attacking the zone in a manner that’s difficult to size up, I feel like there’s a clear ceiling regarding what the Yankee’s lineup can accomplish against him.
I anticipate that Fister will throw a garden-variety quality start – allowing three runs in six or seven innings. I will also make the assumption the Yankees will find a way to tack on another run against Detroit’s bullpen. This means, the Tigers need to find a way to score five runs Thursday night or their season will be finished. The last time the rookie Nova allowed more than four runs in a game was August 16th against the Royals, thus, this could be a tall order for the Tigers.
The first thing manager Jim Leyland will need to consider will be who to start at second, third, and right-field. At second, I assume he will stick with Ramon Santiago. He has the ability to hit left-handed, plays a bit better defense the Ryan Raburn, and has already notched some big hits in this series.
At third, I think he has to go with his veteran Brandon Inge. The defense is better, and even though Inge is right-handed, Wilson Betemit has struggled at the plate in this series, looking like the magnitude of the stage is overpowering him.
In right-field, I think Leyland has to go with Magglio Ordonez. As John Verburg likes to say, Ordonez looks like he runs with a refrigerator strapped to his back, but in Yankee Stadium there will be much less real-estate to cover. Plus Magglio has excellent opposite-field power, allowing him a decent shot at poking a ball over the short porch in right.
In game one, Ivan Nova frequently started off hitters with sinking fastballs down in the zone. The Tigers need to find a way to lay off these pitches and work the count. Even if they get the bat on these offerings, there isn’t much success to be found. They have to make him get the ball higher up in the zone, and attack accordingly.
When the Tigers were able to get Nova deeper in counts, they hit balls sharply, especially in the fifth inning. Unfortunately one of these sharp singles into center resulted in Alex Avila getting thrown out at home plate keeping the score tied 1-1.
The Tigers will also benefit greatly by getting runners on base. Ivan Nova is clearly less effective from the stretch-position compared to when he is a full-windup. He doesn’t seem to be able to get as much late movement on his fastball from the stretch.
Without a doubt, the key hitters for the Tiger’s lineup against Nova are Alex Avila and Victor Martinez. These are the two lefties with power that Ivan Nova didn’t seem comfortable pitching against. Avila and V-mart will either be pitched around, or see some pitches they can drive. They need to spank these pitches, because Nova will not allow the Tigers too many chances to get runs on the board. On occasion, Nova flashes a real nice curve, and that will be an equalizer that Avila and Martinez will have to be looking out for.
Obviously, the Yankees’ bullpen makes this a six or seven inning game for the Tigers. They need to find a way to jump on Nova, or quite simply, they will be finished.
To recap, the Tigers need to work the count on Nova and make him throw the ball higher up in the zone. They need to get men on base to make him work from the stretch. And Alex Avila and Victor Martinez need to make strong contributions.