New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers. Game 5 of their American League Division Series. Winner goes on to face the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series. Loser goes home for the winter. It has been said, truthfully, that the new Yankee Stadium does not have the history or the aura of the old one. Thursday night (8 p.m. ET/TBS) could help change that.
Game 1 Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees. Doug Fister, the loser in that game, will pitch for the Tigers. Both pitchers came on in relief Saturday after the game was suspended Friday by rain. Nova pitched six shutout innings before reliever Luis Ayala allowed two inherited runners to score in the ninth. Fister was knocked around by the Yankees, giving up six runs in 4.2 innings.
"This is what we fought so hard for during the course of the season. You have two very good teams playing tomorrow night. Unfortunately, one of us is going to go home," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "But we've worked hard to get to this point. We feel good about our starter. They probably feel good about their starter. And time is going to tell."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland sounded a lot like Girardi when he met with reporters Wednesday.
"We got one game or several games left. It's that simple," Leyland said. "We got a big game with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It's a great scenario. It's great for baseball. It turned out to be a five-game series. I wish I could tell you what's going to happen, but I don't know. But we feel good. I'm sure they feel good."
During a Wednesday press conference, Nova called Thursday's start "the most important game in my life."
An afterthought in the Yankee rotation when the season began, Nova emerged as the team's No. 2 starter. He went 16-4 in the regular season with a 3.70 ERA and has not lost a game since June 3.
Nova, 24, said nerves won't be an issue.
"I don't see the reason to feel pressure. It's another game. Of course, it's the most important game of the season now," he said. "if you get nervous, you're going to be in trouble, because you can't control yourself. You can't control what you have to do."
Fister will need to have a better performance than he did in Game 1 for the Tigers to advance.
"Obviously I didn't execute a few things. A good lineup makes you pay for it. That's what they did the other night," Fister said. "Still going to go out there and approach the game the same way that I did before. I'm going after hitters and using my defense."
Girardi said that CC Sabathia, who pitched Monday, will be available in relief for the Yankees in Game 5. Leyland has said that Justin Verlander, who started for Detroit Monday, will not be available for the Tigers.