Mailbag: Saturday looms large
Anthony Castrovince answers fans' questions about the ALDS
In New York, these postseason endeavors are second nature. They might as well come included on the season schedule.Here in Detroit, though, the playoffs are an impromptu party, an unexpected treat. I've been to Comerica Park several times. But until Friday night, the only time I had really seen a buzz in the air was when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band rocked the house from a stage in center field back in '03. But with Kenny Rogers playing the role of "The Boss" on Friday night, the Tigers gave their fans a performance worth every minute of the 19-year wait. And now Detroit is a game away from clinching an ALCS berth. With visions of a Yankee killing dancing in the heads of the folks in Motown, let's take a peek into the thoughts running through the heads of MLB.com readers. Is this series all but over?
-- Roger G., Erie, Pa. Eh, I wouldn't go that far. Saturday's starting pitching matchup looks as though it could go either way. Jaret Wright has been at his best in the final stretch this season, and Jeremy Bonderman is coming off a total letdown in his last start against the Royals. If the Tigers are to complete what can only be described as an upset over the Yanks, Saturday is clearly their best chance to do it. Returning to a decisive Game 5 in Yankee Stadium is certainly not the preferred scenario for this club. Nor is facing Chien-Ming Wang again. I really don't know what's been more impressive about the Tigers thus far -- their solid pitching or the way the lineup has gelled, with some pivotal contributions from formerly unproven playoff players. Do you know why the Yankees are starting Wright over Cory Lidle in Game 4? Lidle is definitely a better pitcher.
-- Anonymous You didn't include your name in this e-mail, so I'll just refer to you as Cory. Lidle has battled tendinitis in his right index finger the past month and didn't even pitch from Sept. 13 to Sept. 26. He came back and pitched well in one start against the Orioles and pitched one inning of relief in the regular-season finale against the Blue Jays, but manager Joe Torre said the Yanks are still being cautious with the right-hander.
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Wright, meanwhile, has recovered nicely from a not-so-stellar first four months of the season, in which he tended to max out his pitch count early and never once made it past the sixth inning. His last four starts have been some of his strongest of the season.So Torre is playing the hotter hand for Saturday's crucial afternoon game. Torre said he likes how Wright has maintained his composure this season, even when things haven't gone his way. That's a tremendous attribute in this environment. I have asked this question to several sports fanatics that I know and no one has the answer. When a team wins the World Series, do all of the players that have played throughout the year get a ring or is it just the players on the Series roster? It seems to me that everyone who has contributed throughout the year should be eligible for a ring.
-- Chris I. It's up to the team to decide how many rings to give out, Chris. If a player who made one pinch-hit appearance in mid-May is deemed to have made a significant enough contribution, the club could give him one. The same goes for front-office staff members, special assistants and the guy who does the owner's dry cleaning.
Beat writers don't get one, unfortunately. But having covered the 2005 Reds and '06 Indians, that was never really an option for me, anyway.I've been searching for home-field advantage scenarios for the ALCS. Does the division winner, regardless of record, win home-field advantage over the Wild Card winner?
-- Brent The only scenario in which the Tigers would have home-field advantage in this postseason is if they reach the World Series, where the American League won home field by winning the All-Star Game. Wild Card winners can't get home-field in the Division or League Championship Series. So if the Tigers and A's were to meet in the ALCS, it would begin in Oakland. If it's A's-Yankees, it opens in New York, by virtue of the Yankees' superior regular-season record. What are the chances of the Minnesota Twins coming back, down 3-0 in their series with the Oakland A`s?
-- Terry G. OK, this e-mail has nothing to do with Tigers-Yanks, but I simply had to include it. I'm not gonna lie, Terry. I don't like the Twins' chances at this point. Especially considering the A's already used up all the champagne. Why didn't the Yankees start Gary Sheffield over Bernie Williams in Game 3?
-- Debbie W. It's a numbers game. Though Williams didn't hit particularly well in the home stretch of the season, he has raked in his career against Kenny Rogers. Williams had a .353 (12-for-34) average against Rogers coming in, whereas Sheffield had hit just .176 (3-for-17) against him. Of course, the numbers don't always hold up, as evidenced by Williams going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Speaking of Williams ... When Williams hit the foul pole in the third inning, why was it called foul instead of a home run? If it was called correctly, it would have been a 3-2 ballgame.
-- Adam T., Kingston, N.Y. One replay did make it look as though the ball might have grazed the pole, but it was tough to tell for certain. I guess the best argument I can give to this question is to say the Yankees raised no argument at all. Had they believed even the slightest bit that the ball hit the pole, they would have been in the umpires' ear about it, and they weren't. To MLB, I think you should expand the playoffs. The short series is quick and a bad slump by a team throws out a year of work.
-- Paul B. The season is long enough as it is, Paul. And a short series such as this one is what makes October baseball so intense. The five-gamer just further emphasizes the value of starting pitching, which is what has allowed the Tigers to tame an unquestionably great lineup and grab control of this series.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.