The Yankees and Tigers resume their ALDS showdown with what should have been the series opener, but has now developed into a pivotal third game. Entering the series, it was widely believed that the Tigers would need Justin Verlander to win two games in order to advance, but now that rain has limited him to only one full start, Detroit has been forced to a plan B.
One reason so much emphasis was placed on Verlander’s starts is because the other three pitchers in the Tigers’ rotation had never started a postseason game. Entering the series, the Yankees had been 54-33 in games featuring an opposing starter making his playoff debut, so at least from a historical standpoint, it’s easy to see why the rest of Detroit’s rotation might be a little vulnerable.
After Friday night’s rain limited Verlander’s first start to only one inning, it looked as if the Tigers would need a victory from their ace just to keep the series alive. However, thanks to Max Scherzer’s strong outing in game two, the team is now in position to take a commanding lead.
Top-10 Games vs. Yankees by a Starter Making His Postseason Debut, by Game Score
|Jack Sanford||10/5/1962||WS||2||SFG||W 2-0||84|
|Ernie White||10/3/1942||WS||3||STL||W 2-0||81|
|Fausto Carmona||10/5/2007||ALDS||2||CLE||W 2-1||80|
|Jack Scott||10/6/1922||WS||3||NYG||W 3-0||80|
|Don Newcombe||10/5/1949||WS||1||BRO||L 0-1||79|
|Preacher Roe||10/6/1949||WS||2||BRO||W 1-0||78|
|Joey Jay||10/5/1961||WS||2||CIN||W 6-2||71|
|Joe Black||10/1/1952||WS||1||BRO||W 4-2||71|
|Max Scherzer||10/2/2011||ALDS||2||DET||W 5-3||69|
|Curt Simmons||10/10/1964||WS||3||STL||L 1-2||69|
Among the 88 starters who have faced the Yankees in their first October game, Scherzer became only the sixth pitcher to keep the Bronx Bombers off the scoreboard in at least five innings. His game score of 69 also cracked the top-10, while the two hits he allowed tied Jack Sanford (1962 World Series) and Fausto Carmona (2007 ALDS) for the lowest amount on a per inning basis. Scherzer’s start was made even more impressive because it occurred at Yankee Stadium, where teams with pitchers making their postseason debut have gone 17-30.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees have less frequently relied on inexperienced pitchers in the postseason. Unlike their opposition, however, the Yankees have found success when giving the ball to an October debutant. Not including Ivan Nova, whose game one victory went into the record books as a relief appearance, the Yankees have had 45 starters make their debut in the postseason, and the team has won 27 of those games. Who was the last starter to win a postseason game in his first try? A.J. Burnett, or course.
The Last 10 Yankees’ Starters to Make Their Postseason Debut
|A.J. Burnett||10/9/2009||ALDS||2||MIN||W 4-3||63|
|Shawn Chacon||10/9/2005||ALDS||4||LAA||W 3-2||61|
|Chien-Ming Wang||10/5/2005||ALDS||2||LAA||L 3-5||53|
|Javier Vazquez||10/9/2004||ALDS||4||MIN||W 6-5||37|
|Jon Lieber||10/6/2004||ALDS||2||MIN||W 7-6||51|
|Orlando Hernandez||10/10/1998||ALCS||4||CLE||W 4-0||75|
|Scott Kamieniecki||10/7/1995||ALDS||4||SEA||L 8-11||31|
|Andy Pettitte||10/4/1995||ALDS||2||SEA||W 7-5||40|
|Rick Reuschel||10/10/1981||ALDS||4||MIL||L 1-2||58|
|Dave Righetti||10/8/1981||ALDS||2||MIL||W 3-0||72|
It’s worth noting that the Yankees postseason winning percentage is .599, so their record with and against a first-time playoff starter is only marginally better than their overall postseason success rates. This is also borne out on a league wide basis. Since the first World Series in 1903, 532 pitchers have debuted in the postseason, and the teams sending them to the mound have won 48% (49% if the Yankees are removed from the equation) of the time. In other words, it really doesn’t matter how much experience a pitcher has when he makes his first start in October. Ability is what wins.