Tigers-Orioles series all on Justin Verlander’s shoulders now

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To say the pressure is on Justin Verlander to deliver a strong showing Friday would be quite the understatement. The Tigers might be dead in the water without one.

Already known headed into Thursday’s Game 1 was that the Orioles had a big advantage over the Tigers in the bullpen. It just became more obvious than ever when Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria and Phil Coke combined to give up seven runs — plus an inherited runner — in two-thirds of an inning after Max Scherzer left down 4-3 in the eighth. Andrew Miller, Darren O’Day, Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter worked four innings for the Orioles, allowing just one run in the process to close out a 12-3 victory.

The eighth-inning meltdown also had a hidden cost for the Tigers; whereas closer Zach Britton was slated to be stretched into trying for his first career four-out save, the huge inning allowed the Orioles to save him for Friday. He threw just five pitches instead of the 20 or 30 he might have thrown otherwise. Miller could be tired Friday after throwing 32 pitches — if he’s used, it probably won’t be for a full inning — but everyone should be available.

After watching the events of Thursday, Verlander is probably thinking he’s going to need to throw at least eight innings on Friday. That’s something he did in two of his three starts during his awesome postseason last year (0.39 ERA in 23 IP). However, it happened just three times in 32 starts during the regular season this year. Fortunately, he has been stronger of late, allowing a total of two runs over 15 1/3 innings against the Royals and White Sox in his last two starts. Those outings lowered his season ERA from 4.81 to 4.54.

The Orioles will be going with underrated lefty Wei-Yin Chen opposite Verlander. Chen, who went 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA this season, has the advantage of the Tigers not having seen him since his rookie season in 2012. Verlander has faced the Orioles twice this year, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.

Perhaps the Tigers will get to Chen, but even if they do, the Orioles could just go to Kevin Gausman for multiple innings. It’s hard to see Detroit winning the game with bats alone. If the Tigers have to go to the bullpen more than once, most likely, they’re going to lose.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.