Tonight's the night -- starting at 8 pm, we'll get to see if the Tigers can advance past the Yankees into the ALCS, giving us the first season since 2006 -- the last time the Tigers were in the ALCS -- without an AL East team in the championship round.
Doug Fister, acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline, goes up against rookie Ivan Nova.
Besides Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, Fister has been Detroit's second-best starter, posting an ERA of 1.79 thanks to an 11.4 K/BB ratio in his 70 frames with the Tigers. While that overstates his ability, his season totals are also impressive, with a 2.83 ERA, league-low 0.5 homers per nine among qualifiers, and a K/BB ratio of 4 thanks to 146 punch outs against 37 free passes. He's not your conventional idea for a must-win start thanks to the low strikeout totals, but if his control is working for him, he's a dangerous pitcher to face.
Nova posted an ERA of 3.70 in his rookie season, but a look at his peripherals suggests that, while he was solid overall, luck was on his side: his 1.7 K/BB ratio is lower than Daisuke Matsuzaka's career rate, if that tells you anything. Opponents hit just .624 on batted-balls classified as line drives this year, compared to the league average of .713 (that's 29 percent better than the average). A little less luck in tonight's start, combined with a solid performance by Fister, might be enough to end the Yankees' season.
To Nova's credit, he has been better since he was demoted to the minors and recalled at the end of July, posting a 3.18 ERA with a 2.4 K/BB ratio in his last 73 frames.
Of course, saying that is easy enough, but Nova's kept up his luck all year -- one more night of it is a distinct possibility, and that's all New York would need to advance.
CC Sabathia is supposedly available for the Yankees in relief, while Justin Verlander is not. We'll see if each manager keeps with that plan, though, as the season is on the line, after all.
I would say, "Let's go [whoever you're rooting for]", but let's be honest, you want the Tigers to win, yeah?