Walls Close in on Yankees

What's the problem with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Yanks could use the A-Rod of 2009 right about now.

    One of the most maddening things about the five-game ALDS format is how much every little thing feels like it will wind up swinging the series in one direction or another.

    On Saturday night, it felt like the Yankees had the Tigers right where they wanted them. Robinson Cano had just had one of those games that makes you feel like you're watching a player go from great to otherworldly and Ivan Nova had spat on the notion that a rookie can't handle the heat that comes with starting a playoff game.

    The lineup wore down Doug Fister with a vintage Yankees offensive performance where they make a guy work and work until he finally cracks. We've grown used to that over the past 15 years and it usually is the kind of thing that repeats itself night after night.

    The Tigers were going to have to win three of four games with Justin Verlander available to start just once, and with two of the games being played at Yankee Stadium. Anyone would take those odds and feel good about cashing in their ticket.

    It wasn't even 24 hours before everything turned completely upside down. Max Scherzer's strong start and Freddy Garcia's Freddy Garcia-ish outing left the series tied at 1-1, but with all of the arrows pointing in the Tigers' favor.

    To win the series, the Yankees now need to beat Justin Verlander on Monday and/or get a win in a game started by A.J. Burnett on Tuesday and/or get another gem from Nova in Game Five back in the Bronx. Those first two things have to happen on the road and they are going to have to happen with the middle of the Yankee order looking like a massive black hole.

    Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have combined to go 1-for-15 with two walks through the first two games of the series. As bad as those numbers look, actually watching them during their plate appearances has been worse as both men look too slow to catch up with fastballs and too locked in on those pitches to do anything with breaking stuff.

    This isn't a new development for either man. A-Rod's been lost at the plate since returning from the disabled list and Teixeira's problems hitting left-handed have been well documented over the course of the season.

    Were these two-game blips, there'd be plenty of reason for confidence in their bats coming alive in Game Three. There are bigger issues at play with both of these guys, though, and that makes it hard to buy into the idea that there's a whole new world right around the corner.

    So, yeah, it suddenly seems a lot bleaker for the Yankees than it did at this time on Sunday. That doesn't mean it is impossible, far from it with CC Sabathia starting Monday and the Yankees far better equipped in the bullpen after resting all their big guns on Sunday. 

    But there are clouds forming overhead and it will be hard to see anything else if we find ourselves back here on Tuesday with Burnett standing as the only thing between the Yankees and the offseason.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.