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How the Detroit Took Home-Field from the Yanks

Many average fans view baseball as merely a game or another sport. But when you shift from an average fan to a baseball fan that idea changes quickly. Baseball fans, partially because of their obsession with statistics, are often view as more intellectual than their average counterparts. Furthermore, baseball fans are aware of what is happening in the game even if it can’t be seen watching the game on television. Both these traits can be fully derived from insight given in George Will’s Men at Work and Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. These books provide the reader with a detailed look at the inside of the game. By using that insight a baseball fan should be able to understand the various strategies and what events proved critical in any given game. Game 2 of the ALDS between the Detroit Tigers is a good example. While any fan would agree that it was a thrilling game it takes knowing the overriding themes of both these authors to understand what were the turning points that led Detroit to victory.

Game 1 of this series did not go as expected. Intense rainstorms forced the game to be played over two days and greatly affected the managerial strategies enacted by both teams. Because rain cancelled the game Friday after only 1 and a half innings, both teams opted to bring in their scheduled Game 2 starters to finish the game when it resumed Saturday. New York ended up winning that game 9-3, and taking a 1-0 series lead. That delay, however, put managers Jim Leyland (Detroit) and Joe Girardi (New York) in a precarious situation. Would they choose to resend out their aces on a day’s rest and risk injury and fatigue or would they rely on their number three starter and face the fact that both team’s ace would pitch only one game this series? Joe Giradi decided on the former by sending Freddy Garcia to the mound, a seasoned veteran enjoying coming off a solid regular season (12 wins, 3.62 ERA). Leyland had a tougher decision to make. The reason Scherzer was in the three spot to begin with is that Leyland wanted him to pitch in Detroit, where he has had much more success. Since Scherzer is a fly ball pitcher, he is best suited for a spacious ballpark like Detroit’s. Yankees Stadium is the exact opposite, with a close right field wall in a place built for home runs. In the end Leyland decided to go with Scherzer, who had already had some success against the Yankees that season.

The Tigers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as their opportunistic offense scored two runs in the top of the 1st. After Garcia recorded two outs and gave up a single to the first three batters he faced, Miguel Cabrera, Detroit’s MVP candidate and American League Batting Champion, stepped up to the plate. Cabrera, who had 9 hits in his 23 career at-bats against Garcia (including three homeruns) hit a two-run homerun to right field, a shot that would not have been a homerun in most ballparks. Garcia, however, recollected himself and ended the inning with an emphatic strikeout of Victor Martinez. Tigers 2, Yankees 0.

In the bottom of the inning, Max Scherzer retired both the legendary Derek Jeter and MVP candidate Curtis Granderson before facing the Yankees number three hitter, Robinson Cano. Cano had dominated the night before, knocking in six runs with two outs in a Yankees’ rout. To avoid potential disaster, Scherzer refused to throw Cano anything he could hit and walked him on four straight pitches. Scherzer then walked the next batter, Alex Rodriguez, and as Mark Teixeira approached the plate, the run thirsty Yankee fans went into an uproar. Facing a 3-1 count, Scherzer induced Teixeira to fly out, and successfully survived his first jam of the evening. Tigers 2, Yankees 0.

The next couple innings were defined by dominant pitching. After a 1-2-3 out 2nd, Garcia gave up a two out single to Magglio Ordonez in the 3rd, his second in two at-bats. The threat...
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