Not many things have gone right for the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
One brief four-run rally notwithstanding, nearly all auspicious developments have gone in favor of the Detroit Tigers.
CC Sabathia, however, brings a ray of hope for the near down-and-out Yankees.
Or does he?
In three starts against the Tigers in 2012, Sabathia went 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. All three outings were quality starts (minus the two unearned runs on Aug. 8).
So how does that markedly evident head-to-head success not serve as positive factor?
Because there are simply too many negative factors working against the Yankees’ postseason cause.
Let’s go down the innumerable list.
First, in Game 1, Detroit charged out to a four-run lead and utterly shut down the Yankee bats.
When all hope seemed to be lost, Ichiro—out of all people—launched a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth. The improbable continued when 40-year-old postseason hero Raul Ibanez followed suit.
The game was tied 4-4.
But the only thing this rally did was provide false hope for the Pinstripes. In true dagger-to-the-heart fashion, the Tigers grabbed yet another lead—one they would not relinquish.
Yet, this wasn’t even close to the devastation incurred in the top of the 12th inning.
Derek Jeter, the team captain and absolute heart and soul of the New York Yankees, gruesomely broke his ankle while fielding a ground ball. The leadoff man and team’s second-leading hitter was gone in a mere instant.
Could there possibly be a worse omen?
No, but there would be more ominous things to come.
Anibal Sanchez, Detroit’s most beatable pitcher among a staff of near unbeatables, silenced the Yankees’ lineup to an even greater extent than the starter before him.
The midseason trade acquisition impeded New York’s offensive progress to the tune of zero runs, three hits and seven strikeouts through seven innings. It extended the scoreless streak by Tigers starters to 13.1 innings.
If not getting shut out at home was bad enough, the umps absolutely blew a call at second base that kept the eighth inning alive. It allowed the Tigers to score two more runs.
Talk about insult to injury at the worst possible time.
Dropping the first two at home was simply not an option for the Yankees.
Why? Because Justin Verlander, Mr. MVP pitcher himself, would take the ball for the Tigers in Game 3 at Comerica Park.
And take the ball is just what he did—in typically dominating fashion at that.
Verlander nearly tossed a complete game shutout, holding the Yankees to a ninth-inning solo home run. Compounding matters, though, was that the Detroit starter did not nearly have the command of his repertoire that he usually does.
He relied more on sheer guts and craftiness as he struck out a mere three batters on the night—wholly pedestrian for Verlander’s standards.
And as with Game 1, New York found itself in yet another false hope-infused reality. The Yankees had two runners on in the top of ninth and the right man for the job at the plate. But the usually clutch Ibanez struck out on a nasty breaking ball—to a former Yankee, no less.
It’s fair to say that breaking the 21.2-inning scoreless-streak by Tigers starters did not serve as any consolation.
Finally, the Yankees’ unlikely fate will reach its most gut-wrenching climax in Game 4.
Max Scherzer is the Tigers’ starter taking the mound on Wednesday night. He’s a pitcher that the Yankees have had success against this year. They induced seven walks, scored three runs and knocked him out in the fourth inning.
Those favorable numbers will prove obsolete, however.
That game occurred all the way back in April when Scherzer sported a ghastly 8.24 ERA. He turned his season around since then with a 6-1 record and earned run average just over two in the final two months of the season. He’s already pitched 5.1 innings of shutout ball in the playoffs as well.
So it really only makes sense that the Yankees, with five of their top hitters batting below the Mendoza Line, should fall to a pitcher that they’ve beaten once before. The pitching is just too good right now, while the bats are just too cold.
On that note, it’s time to say, “Ou voir” to the 2012 New York Yankees.
Not even the great CC Sabathia could save them from being swept in a postseason series for the first time in 32 years.
I’d call that being on the wrong side of history.
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