October 14, 2012
Tigers take down punchless Yankees in ALCS Game 2
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
NEW YORK - At the end of the longest homestand in MLB post-season history, the best thing that can be said for the New York Yankees is that they’re getting out of town for a few days.
If things don’t get better in a hurry, they won’t have to come back and face the music at Yankee Stadium until next year.
The Detroit Tigers came into the Bronx and snatched the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the suddenly punchless Yankees lineup and can claim a berth in the World Series by winning two of three at Comerica Park in Detroit this week.
With right-hander Anibal Sanchez setting the tone with a seven-inning, three-hit shutout performance Sunday, the Tigers blanked New York 3-0. It was a win that came less than 20 hours after the Tigers pulled out a 6-4 victory in 12 innings Saturday night.
“This is a tough place to pitch with a tough lineup and a short porch,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “And a whole bunch of left‑handed hitters, it is not easy. That was quite a feat.”
The Yankees had the benefit of playing at home for the final three games of their AL Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, pulling out a Game 5 win to advance against Detroit. They then hosted the Tigers in the first two ALCS games to become the first team in baseball history to host five games in a row.
It was not the boost they hoped it would be.
The Yanks have scored 20 runs in seven games this post-season and are hitting .205 as a team with 67 strikeouts in 258 at-bats. A few of the club’s big stars have been hearing about it from the Yankee faithful after every miserable at-bat.
“I think this off-day (Monday) will serve our team well, just to get away from it for a little bit,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who will spend his own day off at his father’s funeral in Illinois. “We went extremely hard for five really stressful games. I think it will be good for us. And I think you’ll see a different team on Tuesday.”
Girardi denied that the loss of captain Derek Jeter for the season with a broken ankle suffered in the 12th inning Saturday was affecting his team’s focus.
“It is strange not to see this man’s name on any of your cards,” said Girardi. “But as far as bringing us down, no. I think the guys want to do it for him. I really do. So I think the energy level was good.”
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda was perfect through five innings Sunday, 15 up and 15 down, but eventually was tagged with all three Detroit runs.
On the other side, Sanchez was quietly spinning his own gem. He gave up a two-out, first-inning double to Mark Teixeira, a two-out, second-inning single to Nick Swisher and a fourth-inning leadoff single to Raul Ibanez. Through five innings, those were the only Yankees baserunners.
Leading off the seventh for Detroit, Quintin Berry laced the second pitch he saw deep to centre field where it one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double. Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to right, putting runners on the corners. One out later, Delmon Young hit a high foul ball that came down just inside the seating area behind first base. Teixeira reached into the crowd, but was bullied off the ball by a man, presumably a Yankees fan, wearing an Alex Rodriguez shirt.
On the next pitch, Young hit a grounder to shortstop, a potential double-play ball, but second baseman Robinson Cano could not make the relay, losing his grip on the ball and allowing Berry to score Detroit’s first run.
The Yankees put another man in scoring position in the seventh when Curtis Granderson walked with one out and stole second. Sanchez pitched out of that tricky spot by striking out Swisher and Jayson Nix.
In the top of the eighth, a controversial safe call at second base by umpire Jeff Nelson helped the Tigers score two more runs and eventually got Girardi ejected from the game. With two outs and Omar Infante on first, Austin Jackson singled to right, Infante took a wide turn around second base, then scrambled to get back. Cano applied the tag and Infante appeared to be out but Nelson called him safe. After Boone Loga was summoned to relieve Kuroda, pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia singled home Infante.
Girardi came out to make another pitching change and picked an argument with Nelson over the Infante call. The Yankees manager was tossed. Cabrera then drove in Detroit’s third run with a single off Joba Chamberlain.
In his post-game press conference, Girardi made an impassioned plea for MLB to expand the use of instant replay to include reviews for plays at the bases.
“In this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it’s got to change,” said Girardi. “These (umpires) are under tremendous amounts of pressure.”
A crucial aspect of the Yankees’ struggles offensively this post-season has been that some of Girardi’s most important hitters haven’t been getting the job done. Swisher, Granderson, Rodriguez, Cano and Eric Chavez are a combined 12-for-118 (.102) with 44 strikeouts in seven games
“We have to adjust,” said Girardi. “We just have to start putting more balls in play when runners are on, and get runners in, and get them over, and do the things that you need to do to score runs.”
The Tigers will now be looking to take a 3-0 lead in the series with their ace, Justin Verlander, the favourite to win the AL Cy Young Award for the second straight season, pitching against Phil Hughes on Tuesday.