Sunday, October 14, 2012

Yankees Get All the Bad Breaks in Game 1 Loss

Photo courtesy of

The Yankees post-season went from the real to the surreal last night and I am still trying to get my head wrapped around it. Game 1 of the ALCS went from low to high to rock bottom in a manner of hours. It's been a rough year for the remaining members of the "Core Four" (Mariano Rivera's season ending ACL injury; Andy Pettitte's broken ankle; at least Jorge Posada was having fun last night at his wife's bff's wedding in Puerto Rico) and last night it got worse when the Yankees dropped the ALCS opener, 6-4 to the Tigers.

Raul Ibanez, amazingly, hit another desperation home run in the bottom of the 9th to send the game into extra innings. But in the 12th and final inning, the Yankees suffered a truly painful loss. Delmon Young had already put Detroit ahead with an RBI double off of David Phelps when Jhonny Peralta hit a bouncer up the middle.

Derek Jeter fielded the ball, lost his footing and hit the dirt. With no play, he quickly flipped the ball in the direction of Robinson Cano to keep the runners from advancing and roared in pain. And then he didn't get up. I truly believe every Yankees fan gasped at that moment. We all have seen Derek Jeter not get up once before and that's when he had his shoulder destroyed on opening day in 2003. (The dive in the stands he was able to get to his feet with assistance, even he was not quite sure where he was at that moment).

The next image of Jeter being helped off the field with no weight being put on his left leg told us all we needed to know. There was big trouble in the Bronx and after the game it was confirmed- Jeter had fractured his left ankle and is done for the post-season. A three month recovery period is expected, and hopefully, after further testing, no surgery will be needed. Ironically, it came on the 11th anniversary of the "Flip Play" in the 2001 playoffs.

There were a few factors that played into the gruesome ending of the evening. First, the Yankees could do nothing on offense for eight innings, leaving the bases loaded three times. They also did nothing after scoring four runs in the 9th inning. (Ichiro Suzuki delivered a 2-run home run prior  to Ibanez's blast.) A combo of Major League Baseball's scheduling with the Yankees propensity for long, extra inning games can lead to issues for a 38-year old with already beat up ankles and feet. And finally, had Nick Swisher not screwed up another play in the outfield, perhaps none of the aftermath would have taken place.

Outfielder or turtle? You decide. Photo courtesy of NY Post

David Phelps entered the game in the 12th (I believe a major mistake by Joe Girardi not staying with David Robertson for a second inning) inning and walked Miguel Cabrera. Though I hate walking batters I had no problem with that since I don't want Cabrera having a chance to beat me.

Prince Fielder hit a tapper to move to Cabrera into scoring position, which brought up Young. The DH, who killed the Yankees last season's ALDS (.316 3 HR 3 RBI), hit a laser to right field. Swisher appeared ready to make a running catch, but the next thing you knew the ball shot past him to the wall to score Cabrera. And of course, Swisher, the clown that he is (Have you noticed how I have totally had it with this guy?) then had to go into a roll as well. The Tigers added an insurance run when Andy Dirks' comebacker couldn't be handled by Phelps for a ribbie single.

Drew Smyly allowed a single to Suzuki in the 11th, but retired the final six men he faced to earn his first post-season win. His fellow rookie Phelps lost for the second time, after he had been on the wrong end of a 13-inning, 2-1 loss in Game 4 of the ALDS.

For most of the game it looked like the Yankees would be dispatched rather easily as they threatened against Tigers starter Doug Fister, but couldn't push a run across.

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte made the mistake of having one bad inning, the 6th, when he allowed a pair of runs and things got worse when Derek Lowe was charged with two more in the 8th for a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 deficit.

Tigers closer Jose Valverde had a pretty miserable year and it continued when he came on in the 9th to close things out. He gave up a lead off single to Russell Martin and two batters later Suzuki his first career post-season home run to halve the lead.

Photo courtesy of LA Times
It appeared Valverde would still come out with a save when he retired Robinson Cano (now 2-28 in the post-season) and had two strikes on Mark Teixeira. But the Yankees first baseman worked a walk and a chant of Rauuuuuuuuuuuuuuul greeted Ibanez as he stepped into the batter's box. Ahead 0-1 in the count, Valverde hung a slider and Ibanez deposited it into the right field seats. A sullen Yankee Stadium crowd erupted into a joyous frenzy.

But the Bombers went back to being the Bombless in extra innings. Curtis Granderson drew a one out walk from Octavio Dotel in the 10th inning and pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second.  But Dotel got Martin on a weak fly to center, and after Gardner stole third, he retired Jeter on a routine fly out to right. It was all downhill after that.

The game started out with such promise when the Yankees put Fister on the ropes in the 1st inning. With the bases loaded on walks, Alex Rodriguez hit a hard smash to the left side that shortstop Jhonny Peralta made a diving stop on and threw to second just in time to force Ibanez.

The Yankees mounted another two out, bases loaded rally in the 2nd inning on consecutive singles by Martin, Jeter, and Suzuki. Cano hit a comebacker off the right wrist of Fister and the ball ricocheted to Peralta who threw Cano out at first to end the inning (though replays showed that Cano was clearly safe.)

Pettitte meanwhile was cruising along. He struck out four and used a double play to get out of some trouble through the first five innings. But his luck ran out in the 6th when Austin Jackson led off with a scorcher that got trapped in the cutout on the right side by the ball boy. It was the one time a fan should have reached out and grabbed the ball for a ground rule double.

Pettitte retired Omar Infante and then intentionally walked Cabrera set up a double play possibility. But Fielder lined an RBI single to center to get the Tigers on the board. Young followed with a bloop to right that Swisher played on a hop rather than aggressively try to dive for it (which you have to do when your team isn't scoring). Cabrera took off immediately when bat met ball and scored easily. Down 2-0, Pettitte bore down and escaped further trouble.

Remarkably, the Yankees put Fister on the ropes again in the bottom of the 6th when Teixeira singled and Ibanez doubled to right. But Fister struck out A-Rod, and after a walk to Swisher to load the bases, K'ed Granderson and Martin. (Daniel Day-Lewis will soon be starring in "There Will Be Booing").


CC Sabathia could have come back on three days rest and pitched Game 3 of the ALCS, but at the moment Joe Girardi has him slated for Game 4. I think it's a mistake, but we will all see how things play out. The outcome of Game 2 could changes things.

Hiroki Kuroda goes against Anibal Sanchez in Game 2, and then Phil Hughes starts Game 3 in Detroit against Justin Verlander. Sabathia would go against Max Scherzer in the 4th game.

Girardi chose to pinch-hit for A-Rod once again, with Eric Chavez. The move made no sense since A-Rod was leading off the 8th and the Yankees were down four.

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