Determining who’s No. 1 in the American League this year may come down to who has the best No. 2.
And that’s why New York Yankees rookie pitcher Ivan Nova and Detroit Tigers newly-acquired right-hander Doug Fister could play big roles come October.
As the AL playoff picture takes shape, so too are the rotations. The Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tigers have all but sealed their playoff fate. The Texas Rangers hold a 3 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
Each team has an established No. 1 starter — Yankees (CC Sabathia), Red Sox (Jon Lester), Tigers (Justin Verlander) and Rangers (C.J. Wilson) — but it’s the No. 2 spot in the rotation that begs the question.
The Daily Pitch looks at each team’s options for the No. 2 spot:
Boston: The Red Sox appeared to have the best 1-2 punch with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett among the playoff potential teams. But Beckett’s ankle injury could put a wrench into the Sox’s plan. He is expected to miss at least one start, and upon his return would have less than two weeks before the playoffs begin. Without Beckett, the Red Sox could turn to either John Lackey (12-11, 6.11 ERA) or Erik Bedard (1-2, 3.66 ERA). However, Lackey’s ERA is the highest among qualified starters and the oft-injured Bedard is suffering from another knee injury and will skip his next start.
Yankees: Nova could be the Yankees follow-up to 19-game winner Sabathia. The rookie pitcher has won the his last 11 decisions to improve to 15-4 and lower his ERA to 3.89. The Yankees are 18-5 in games started by Nova. The only pitcher with a better mark is Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay (21-7). A.J. Burnett has fallen out of favor after a dreadful August, going 1-2 with an 11.91 ERA in five starts.
Tigers: If only the Tigers could start Verlander (22-5) every game. They have won the last nine games he’s started heading into Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. Doug Fister, who was acquired in a trade along with David Pauley from the Seattle Mariners on July 30, has been a great complement to Verlander. The right-hander is 4-1 in six starts with the Tigers and owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36-to-3.
Rangers: Rangers manager Ron Washington has a decision to make after Wilson between Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando. Harrison has had a breakout season winning 13 games. His 3.50 ERA is nearly two runs lower than his career figure entering the season (5.39). Holland has established career-highs in wins (13), innings (172.1), strikeouts (133) and has held left-handed hitters to a .234 batting average. Lewis is one game from matching his career-high of 12 wins. And Ogando started the season red-hot, going 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA. He has since cooled off, 5-7 with a 5.38 ERA.