Here are the lineups for Game 5 of the Tigers-Yankees series tonight:
DETROIT TIGERS NEW YORK YANKEES
1. Austin Jackson, CF 1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Don Kelly, 3B 2. Curtis Granderson, CF
3. Delmon Young, LF 3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B 4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Victor Martinez, DH 5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
6. Magglio Ordonez, RF 6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Alex Avila, C 7. Jorge Posada, DH
8. Jhonny Peralta, SS 8. Russell Martin, C
9. Ramon Santiago, 2B 9. Brett Gardner, LF
SP Doug Fister, RHP SP Ivan Nova, RHP
Wilson Betemit is 0-for-10 in the series and rather than turn to Brandon Inge manager Jim Leyland has opted to go with Don Kelly at third base. Kelly is 3-for-7 in the series, but he’s also a 31-year-old career .240 hitter with a ghastly .285 on-base percentage and .363 slugging percentage in 287 games and has logged just 444 innings at third base in the majors. Starting him at third base in a do-or-die game is an odd move and batting him second in the order is even weirder. It also means the three guys hitting directly in front of cleanup man Miguel Cabrera had on-base percentages of .317, .302, and .291 this year.
No changes for the Yankees, who’re sticking with the exact same lineup they used in each of the first four games of the series.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.