Starting pitching of course is always a key, and Thursday night will be no different for the Tigers. While they’ll face Ivan Nova, who kept them mostly in check in game one, the Tigers send Doug Fister to the mound. And in game one, the Yankees were able to tag Fister for six runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
By the numbers though beyond that, Fister didn’t have a poor outing.
Fister’s average velocity was steady at just over 90 MPH for his two and four seam fastball – his season average is actually just a tick below 90. Meanwhile, he actually had better horizontal movement on a number of his pitches, including his two seamer and change-up, so it’s not as if his ball had flattened out or anything along those lines.
In addition, Fister’s ratios were relatively normal as well, with an almost even number of fly balls to ground balls, and six strikeouts to go against two walks (that obviously isn’t quite as good as his season K:BB ratio, but still a very strong ratio).
The one noteworthy stat though is that of all the balls put in play, nearly half went for hits as Fister had a BAbip of .467 for the day. Obviously that’s incredibly inflated compared to his season number (.272) as well as any reasonable projection. With a little bit better strategy (like not having your second baseman cover on a steal attempt against a player that always hits balls to the right side of the field), this stat should normalize in game five and help keep the Yankees offense in check.
If he can hand the game over to the bullpen with a lead, the Tigers will have a now-rested Jose Valverde as well as Joaquin Benoit to take the game the final two or three innings.
However, to get a lead, you can’t just keep the other team from scoring. You also have to put up some runs yourself. And while the Tigers got some good production out of guys like Ramon Santiago and Brandon Inge in game three, the big boppers will need to produce for the Tigers to get there.
That means Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Cabrera hasn’t had a poor postseason whatsoever, with a .938 OPS including a home run and three RBI. However, much of that OPS is being driven by taking four walks over four games – including two of them intentional. The Yankees are not going to let Cabrera beat them if they can keep it from happening in any way.
Which means Martinez has to step up. Martinez is hitting just .214 in the series, driving in just two runs, one of which being his solo home run in game four. Martinez has hit the ball on the ground in half of his 14 at-bats, and struck out five other times. Of balls put in play, Martinez typically only puts about 40% of them on the ground, and given the low success rate of getting on base on ground balls (especially for players with Martinez’s speed), it will be imperative that Martinez elevates the ball off the bat, and starts spraying line drives like what he did much of the season.
Of course, they can’t be the only two to produce, but with Austin Jackson slumping and Alex Avila hobbling, the opportunities to produce from the lineup are limited, which means when their time comes at the plate, the Tigers will need them to hit, and hit big.