Everybody on short leash in Game 5

Just as in Detroit in Game 4 of the American League Division Series when A.J Burnett loaded the bases with three walks, Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate in making a call to the bullpen when Ivan Nova was wavering early on in Game 5.

The Tigers struck for back-to-back home runs (by Don Kelly and Delmon Young) in the first inning for the first time in their postseason history. When Magglio Ordonez led off the second with a double, Phil Hughes began warming up for the Yankees. While Hughes answered the call to the pen, Nova answered the wakeup call by getting out of the inning without any damage with two groundouts and a strikeout.

That’s the beauty of winner-take-all games in the postseason be they Game 5 in the ALDS or Game 7 in the Championship Series and World Series. Both teams have their backs to the wall and must pull out all stops. There can be no worrying about saving anyone for the next game. You’ve got to get to the next game first.

Sure enough, Girardi brought in Hughes at the start of the third inning. Considering how Nova had worked out of difficulty in the second, the move seemed premature. Obviously, the manager saw something lacking in Nova’s stuff and made the switch to Hughes, who when used in relief can just air it out.

Hughes’ fastball was clocked at 94 mph as he chalked up two quick strikeouts. Delmon Young, who has been a tough out in this series (3 home runs), got a long single on a drive off the right field wall, but Hughes got the Tigers’ most dangerous hitter, Miguel Cabrera, to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.

Doug Fister, who was battered by the Yankees in Game 1, was proving a tougher customer this time out. The righthander mixed speeds well on his fastball and added a cutter with late life. His breaking stuff was less effective, but he was keeping the Yankees off balance.

You remember all that stuff about Burnett being on a short leash in Game 4? Well, every pitcher on the Yankees had the short rope in Game 5. After Hughes gave up a single with one out in the fourth, Girardi summoned Boone Logan, who gave up a hit before retiring Jhonny Peralta on a fly to right and striking out Ramon Santiago.

At that point, CC Sabathia began throwing in the bullpen – very interesting.

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