December 11, 2013
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Tigers 2, Yankees 1: It's kinda crazy that the following two things are both true: (a) Justin Verlander didn't have his best stuff; and (b) Justin Verlander took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning. That's every bit the testament to the Yankees' offensive futility as it is to Verlander's greatness, of course.
The big question: why didn't Joe Girardi pinch hit someone -- be it Nick Swisher or A-Rod -- for Raul Iabanez against Phil Coke in the ninth inning with the Yankees threatening? I understand that if A-Rod comes in that Leyland brings in a righty. And I understand that both he and the switch-hitting Swisher are in funks so bad that Bootsy Collins looks at them and says "damn." But Raul Ibanez against a lefty killer is a pretty awful matchup no matter how you slice it, and it makes me feel like Girardi was proving a point just as much as he was managing to win last night.
The ALCS resumes, and WPS Recap is there. And by "there" I mean several hundred miles from the game site but a few feet away from a TV monitor. Once again, let me acknowledge FanGraphs, which provides the running data from which I produce the WPS Index for each game this postseason.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 Tigers 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 (Detroit leads series 3-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Yankees 5 5 6 12 7 7 19 8 46 Tigers 14 5 15 30 24 16 2 1 X WPS Base: 220.2 Best Plays: 35.7 Last Play: 14.1 Grand Total: 270.0
Another below-average contest, with that ending? Yes, because half an inning does not make a game. When there is effectively only one team batting for the first eight innings, you have a narrow base on which to build a high WPS score. The unlikely rally at the end added something like 50-60 points to the final sum, hauling an otherwise dull game close to the average of about 300.
Justin Verlander did not have his best stuff this night, leaving a worrisome number of pitches fat in the strike zone and building a rather high pitch count. For most of the way, it did not matter. He allowed only two baserunners in the first eight innings, both of them named Ichiro, and neither of him getting past first base.
The leadoff home run in the ninth by Eduardo Nunez could almost be considered a fluke, but it really wasn't. Verlander's velocity was rising in the ninth as it often does, but his command was waning, and Nunez got hold of a mistake. Verlander battled to set down Brett Gardner, then departed with his pitch count past 130, and the Tigers' hopes pinned on an uncertain bullpen.
Phil Coke came in, and came through, eventually. Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano hit consecutive singles, and then up came Raul Ibanez. And if anything epitomizes the hopelessness of the Yankees' position, it is that their newly-minted postseason hero struck out to end the game.
There is a large portion of the Yankees club that does not deserve what is happening to it: the pitching staff. In their first eight playoff games, this one included, they have given up—during regulation innings—two, three, two, one, one, four, three, and two runs, plus three runs in 10 extra innings. That is as good a performance as anyone could have demanded of them, and while it was just enough against Baltimore, it simply isn't standing up against Detroit.
The problem is at the plate, and one ninth-inning flurry does not camouflage it. Joe Girardi benched Alex Rodriguez (again) and Nick Swisher, getting their flailing bats out of the lineup. However, A-Rod's replacement, Eric Chavez, is now 0-for-14 in the postseason, and Robinson Cano's hit tonight could not raise his postseason average even to .100. I will throw Curtis Granderson into that clinker pile as well.
The position players show occasional spark in the field: Nunez made a fine diving stop on a grounder to get a force and save a run; Gardner made a catch in left field sliding on his knees that made you fear he might be headed back to the DL. At the plate, though, New York has the energy of a landed fish: flopping once in the ninth, then expiring.
One parting anecdote, appropriate to the situation for the pinstripes: a camera angle into the New York dugout clearly showed the brand of antacids the Yankees are using. Maybe Tums should try to swing an endorsement deal.