Fifth game deprives Yanks of rest before ALCS
Following their win in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, New York has absolutely no leisure time. The Yankees need to be already thinking about Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers -- set for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees at least have the benefit of not having to get on a plane. If the Orioles had won, they would have headed to the airport and hopped a flight to Detroit before trying to "sleep fast" and prepare to battle for the franchise's first pennant in 29 years.
It's not the usual way of doing business. The off-day between this ALDS and the ALCS is a casualty of the changes to this year's postseason schedule, as the one-game Wild Card playoffs were scheduled for the beginning of October.
As a result, there's a new set of challenges. The Yankees used ace CC Sabathia on Friday, and Sabathia threw 121 pitches in a complete game. He almost certainly will not be available until Game 4 of the ALCS. If he'd had a light night on Friday, he might have been a candidate to come back on short rest in Game 3, but that appears to be out the window. Instead, Justin Verlander will start against someone other than the Yankees ace in the first game in Detroit.
Things don't get any easier after that. Game 2 of the ALCS will mark the Yankees' fifth straight day with a game. The 2-3 format means that the last three games of the Division Series were played on consecutive days, followed by the first two of the ALCS, before an off-day. It's exceedingly rare to need more than four starting pitchers in the postseason, and in fact sometimes a team tries to get by with only three. The Yanks will almost certainly use five.
Andy Pettitte will start Game 1 on regular rest, leaving a question in Game 2. It's unlikely they would bring back Hiroki Kuroda on short rest for that game, so they could turn to rookie right-hander David Phelps, who allowed one run over 1 1/3 innings and was charged with the loss in Thursday's 3-2 setback in 13 innings. Under normal circumstances, Phelps would not start a playoff game, but these aren't normal circumstances. That would leave Kuroda to pitch Game 3 in Detroit, with Sabathia in Game 4.
"We have to decide," manager Joe Girardi said on Friday night. "We've got to meet. The year of two Wild Cards, but there are a lot of things that are a first -- no days off between series and having to decide what you are going to do. We'll sit down and talk tonight actually. It will be Pettitte [on Saturday]. That's all I've got for you."
One issue that has become much less of a concern for New York is the bullpen, thanks to Sabathia's showing in Game 5. David Robertson pitched in each of the first four ALDS games, and closer Rafael Soriano has pitched in Games 3-4. Had they appeared on Friday, they would have been stretched awfully thin for the start of the ALCS.
So even though the Tigers used their ace, Justin Verlander, to secure their series against the A's with Thursday's 6-0 win in Game 5, they have to like their chances at the moment. Detroit at least has a day to rest up and relax just a little bit before moving on to the ALCS.
Not that anybody on the Yankees is complaining. They're four wins from the World Series, and if the degree of difficulty is raised a little bit, well, so be it.