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Fister, Nova in Game 5 spotlight

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Doug Fister (left) and Ivan Nova (right) make their 1st career postseason starts in Game 5.

The 2011 playoffs have not lost any momentum to the exciting finish to the regular season. For only the third year, three Divisional Series will last five games (also in 1981 and 2001), with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees playing the first of the elimination games.

Divisional Series History

In the Wild Card Era (since 1994), only two teams have won Game 5 of an LDS and gone on to win the World Series: the 2000 Yankees and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. This will be the Tigers first Division Series Game 5 in franchise history, while the Yankees are 3-3 all-time in Division Series Game 5’s.

Detroit is 2-1 in winner-take-all games on the road, with their last win coming over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. The Yankees are 5-4 in winner-take-all games at home. The last time they played in such a game, they lost of the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

On the Mound

Doug Fister and Ivan Nova will both take the mound for their first career postseason STARTS (both began Game 1’s suspension on Saturday in relief roles). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in MLB postseason history that both starting pitchers in a winner-take-all game (Game 5 of 5-game series or Game 7 of 7-game series) will be making their first career postseason starts.

Fister went 4⅔ innings while allowing six earned runs in his Game 1 appearances, the most earned runs he’s allowed since Aug. 14. In his career, Fister is 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in four career appearances against New York and has not recorded a win against the Yankees since August 16, 2009.

10 or More Wins, 2 or Fewer Losses
Since Start of June

Nova went 6⅓ innings while allowing two earned runs in his Game 1 appearance. Nova is 13-0 with a 3.22 ERA in his last 17 appearances going back to regular season (he has not lost since June 3).

Elias says, Nova will be the third Yankees rookie to start a postseason winner-take-all game. Spec Shea got a no-decision in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers, and Mel Stottlemyre lost Game 7 of the 1964 World Series against the Cardinals.

Players to Watch

Detroit catcher Alex Avila (.295 batting average in the regular season) is 0-for-12 thus far in the series. According to Elias, since 2005, three players with a regular season batting average of .290 or higher (among batting qualifiers) went hitless in an entire postseason series (minimum 10 at-bats): Bill Mueller in the 2005 ALDS against the Chicago White Sox (0-for-11); Aramis Ramirez in the 2007 NLDS against the Diamondbacks (0-for-12); and Chone Figgins in the 2009 ALDS against the Red Sox (0-for-12).

Derek Jeter

Jeter

New York’s Derek Jeter is 10-for-29 (.345) in winner-take-all postseason games. The Elias Sports Bureau says his 10 hits are tied with Jason Giambi (10-for-18, .556) for the most hits in such games in major league history. Next on the list with nine are Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Lonnie Smith, and Gil McDougald.