Leyland's tactical genius
- Give Jim Leyland credit: the salty veteran Tigers manager squeezed every drop out of ALDS Game 3 to provide his team an edge, the same way his friend Tony LaRussa did in Philadelphia in NLDS Game 2 the previous day.
- Here is where the game turned for Leyland in a brilliant but subtle move: after Detroit took a 3-2 lead after five innings, Leyland put Don Kelly, a defensive specialist, into right field for Magglio Ordonez.
- Managers don't typically start running their defensive specialists into the game while still needing 12 outs to defend only a one-run lead. And they certainly don't do it as a matter of course when the offensive player coming out of the game is due to lead off the next inning.
- So why put Kelly in that early? Three reasons:
- 1. Justin Verlander is so good that Leyland was willing to compromise the Ordonez at-bat -- and possibly even two of them -- to keep a one-run lead in check.
- 2. With Kelly now due to lead off the sixth, Girardi was more apt to leave a struggling CC Sabathia in the game. Why? Now two of three hitters due for Detroit in the sixth were left-handed (Kelly and Alex Avila). If Ordonez stayed in, then Girardi was more apt to bring in Rafael Soriano because four of the next five Tigers hitters would have been right-handed. Would you rather face Sabathia going past 100 pitches on a night when he had poor command or the teeth of a fresh Yankees bullpen? The Tigers had no problem with Sabathia throwing more pitches.
- 3. Here's the kicker: not only did Leyland put Kelly into the game -- improving his defense and influencing the Yankees to stick with a wearing Sabathia -- he told Kelly to drag bunt for a base hit. So what happened? Kelly dragged a bunt for a base hit, taking advantage of Sabathia falling off to the third base side of the mound -- and scored a tack-on run when Jhonny Peralta followed with a double.
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