New York City-based Yankees super-fan, and espnW contributor, Amanda Rykoff will be sharing her thoughts on the Yankees' playoff run. She looks back at the suspended Game 1 and ahead to the rest of the American League Division Series.
Rain, rain go away
Aaugh! I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football out before he can kick it. In this case, the football is a primo pitching matchup between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander and Lucy is either Mother Nature or, more accurately, Major League Baseball.
In a season marked by the most rainouts since 1997 (nine involving the Yankees), Mother Nature intervening in the ALDS should not have come as a surprise. That Friday night's critical Game 1 at Yankee Stadium -- featuring two of baseball's best pitchers -- actually started with a nasty forecast on the radar was a surprise. It's easy to look back and say that the game should have been called before the first pitch. But the truth is, it should have been. I know a prime-time matchup between two aces represents ratings gold, but the teams should never have taken the field.
Not only did fans sit at an extremely wet, almost flooding, Yankee Stadium for more than an hour before the game was suspended in the middle of the second inning, we've now been robbed of the best postseason pitching matchup of the weekend -- Verlander and Sabathia. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. To say I am mad at Mother Nature is a cop-out. To say I am angry the game started only to be suspended in the middle of a monsoon during the second inning is the truth. Both teams lost their aces due to the weather, and Verlander and Sabathia will likely now pitch only once during the series. This should never happen. Aaugh!
Before the rains came
A few thoughts on what transpired at Yankee Stadium before the rains came:
• Pregame postseason introductions are always so much fun. I love going to the first home game of a playoff series to applaud and thank the players -- even those not on the postseason roster -- for a great season. It was especially nice to see how Curtis Granderson (former Tigers player) and Phil Coke (former Yankees player) acknowledged by their old teammates during the introductions.
• Some idiot fans booed Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson when he was introduced at the top of the Tigers' lineup. I turned to my friend Jodi and said, "Yes, boo the player who allowed your team to get Curtis Granderson. Really smart."
• Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time (if you didn't know before, now you do), threw out the ceremonial first pitch. This was the first time I've seen an active player so honored at a Yankees game. It was also the first time I've ever seen Rivera start a game.
• In a stroke of genius by the Yankees, Rivera threw to longtime teammate and battery mate Jorge Posada, who has caught 368 of Mariano's record 603 career saves. Posada, who has made only one appearance behind the plate this season (he has been shifted to DH and pinch hitter), donned full catcher's gear for the occasion. As someone who has admired and cheered for the two of them for the past 16 seasons, this was a remarkable moment and one I will always treasure. Bravo, Yankees.
• During the brief inning and a half of baseball, CC looked fantastic, except for a solo home run to the short porch in right field from Delmon Young. It was a total cheapie; Yankee Stadium giveth and Yankee Stadium taketh away. CC did retire Miguel Cabrera on a ground ball. You know what they say about baseball …
• Verlander looked shaky in the first inning and had trouble with his location. The Yankees managed to take advantage of walks, some defensive lapses by the Tigers and Verlander's wildness to scratch out a run to tie it without the benefit of a hit.
• What could have been for the Yankees against this wild Verlander? We'll never know. What could have been for CC, who seemed to have his A stuff? We'll never know. Damn you, Mother Nature.
Looking ahead to the rest of the series
This is a mess for both teams. Game 2 between Ivan Nova and Doug Fister effectively becomes the resumed Game 1 on Saturday night. I can live with this, though I'm not any less nervous than I was before the series started. In an interesting twist, because this is a suspended game and not a restart, the Tigers will have their Game 1 lineup, which was set up for a lefty (Sabathia) against a righty (Nova). Fister would also start a decisive Game 5 at the Stadium against Nova.
The Game 3 matchup of Max Scherzer versus Freddy Garcia becomes Game 2 on Sunday afternoon. This could work to the Yankees' advantage, as Scherzer can be home run happy, and Yankee Stadium is just a wee bit more home run friendly than Comerica Park. At this point, I have no idea what to expect from Garcia.
Without an off day, the teams will head to Detroit on Monday, where Verlander, who threw 25 pitches in one inning of work, will start for the Tigers in Game 3. I would like to believe Sabathia will make that start as well (27 pitches through two innings), but Girardi would not confirm his Game 3 starter at Friday night's postgame presser.
While many seem to think this new situation favors the Yankees, here's where things start to favor the Tigers. First, CC would make only start during the series instead of the two he was slated to make. Second, if the series goes four games (and given how much of a mess it is after the rain, it is likely), the Yankees will have to use A.J. Burnett in Game 4 on Tuesday. The very thought of A.J. Burnett starting a potential close-out game in a series for the Yankees makes me stabby. Yes, A.J. pitched a gem in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, and for that I will forever be grateful. But he has been nothing short of awful for the past two seasons. I saw 12 Yankees losses this season; A.J. Burnett started seven of them. I don't want him anywhere near my team except as the official pie man -- especially not in a critical postseason game. There's a reason Girardi relegated him to the bullpen for this series.
I'm heading back to the Stadium Saturday -- same bat time, same bat channel -- for the resumed Game 1 with Nova and Fister on the bump, tied 1-1. Here's hoping the rain stays away. Mother Nature owes us that much. I'm not in the mood to have the football pulled out again.