After falling behind in the ALDS, two games to one, the Yankees' season rests firmly in the pitching arm of ... A.J. Burnett. A pitcher who came perilously close to losing his job in the rotation during the regular season is now the Yankees' last hope against an early October exit (on this date last season the playoffs had yet to begin), but the Tigers, who will have Rick Porcello on the mound, may have their own problems.
Discussion of the Day: Would you rather the Yankees be starting Burnett, Phil Hughes or Bartolo Colon in Tuesday's elimination game?
Behind Enemy Lines: Brian Costa writes that Tigers' closer Jose Valverde is everything that Mariano Rivera is not. Valverde is flamboyant in his celebrations and maddeningly wild in his pitching, but with a perfect record in save opportunities, is hardly ineffective.
Burnett's season was not a good one, but in what is perhaps described as bitter irony, he is now the Yankees' last hope to extend their postseason. Still, Burnett has had postseason success with the Yankees before, and although the Yankees can't expect from him what they might from CC Sabathia, Burnett isn't facing Justin Verlander, either. He doesn't have to be an ace for the Yankees on Tuesday; he simply has to be better than Porcello.
2) Filip Bondy writes that the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium aren't ready to panic.
The fans who inhabit a portion of the right field bleachers all season long are well known among Yankees fans; they are especially well known for their Roll Call tradition. Of course, many Yankees fans are not as die-hard as the Bleacher Creatures, but for those who do invest a significant amount of one's time and emotion in a sports team and a season, the prospect of facing an elimination game is often the worst part of the year. Still, the Yankees have come back from worse, and their 2011 season will remain alive for at least another day,
3) Daniel Barabarisi writes that Alex Rodriguez's bat no longer strikes fear.
Indeed, while having Robinson Cano hit third in the order might seem like an obvious move to make, having a struggling Rodriguez hitting cleanup might very well ensure that Cano doesn't see a pitch to hit. Rodriguez's postseason hasn't been all bad; he did have an RBI in Monday's loss, but the Yankees need more from their cleanup hitter, especially as neither Mark Teixeira nor Nick Swisher are having excellent postseasons, either. Of course, Max Scherzer and Verlander are decent pitchers (Verlander a potential unanimous Cy Young winner), and three games is still a small sample size, but unfortunately in the playoffs, small sample sizes matter.