Yankees Left to Pick Up the Pieces - NBC New York

Yankees Left to Pick Up the Pieces

The Yankee ship has no captain



    Yankees Left to Pick Up the Pieces
    Playoff life without Jeter is hard to fathom.

    Ernest Hemingway wrote about Joe DiMaggio in The Old Man and the Sea, but Saturday night's epic novel of a Yankee loss was more reminiscent of another Hemingway work. 

    There was something about the grim first eight-plus innings of offensive futility, followed by the hopefulness of the bottom of the ninth inning and, ultimately, the brutal double blows at the end that made you wonder if the whole game wasn't just a lower stakes remake of A Farewell to Arms. Like Frederic Henry, the Yankees are left to pick up the pieces and move on in the face of massive disappointment. 

    Yankee magic of the kind we saw when Ichiro Suzuki and the indomitable Raul Ibanez hit two-run home runs off Jose Valverde in the ninth inning isn't supposed to end with the other team celebrating in extra innings. It's supposed to be the precursor to a bigger Yankee moment that tells the world that good fortune only runs one way in the Bronx. 

    And it's certainly not in the script to have Derek Jeter fracture his ankle while making a fairly routine play at shortstop in the 12th inning. Calling the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium, which was dead all night and half-empty when it finally roared for Ibanez, anything other than funereal would be a total misnomer. 

    Yet there it was for all the world to see. The score was 6-4 Tigers and Jeter was done for the postseason with a fractured ankle. 

    The prospect of playing a playoff game in the Bronx without Jeter in the lineup is something that feels about as right as New York City without Central Park or the Brooklyn Bridge. It's the first time since 1995 that the Yankees will play in October without Jeter, so, naturally, the loss comes at a moment when they need Jeter the most. 

    Turning around in a little more than 12 hours from a loss like Saturday's is the kind of thing Jeter has done so well throughout his career. Think of the leadoff homer in Game Four of the 2000 World Series or the single the other way that winds up touching off the rally that finally carries the Yankees to a win, and you realize that the Yankees have a crater-sized hole in their lineup to go with the one in their psyche. 

    Having Jeter out opens up the door for someone else to write themselves a mighty big chapter in the big book of Yankee legends, although one wonders if the other Yankee hitters would write with pens as invisible as their bats. Outside of Ichiro and Ibanez, it's hard to see any other Yankee with the slightest bit of heroic flair to their games right now. 

    Robinson Cano would be the central casting choice for the role, but he's stuck in some kind of abyss right now that has run to 22 at-bats without a hit and he seems to be incapable of exiting it. His 0-for-6 night scalded the eyeballs, even if he might have been safe on a bang-bang play in the second inning that ended a second straight bases loaded opportunity without a run. 

    It's that futility -- there would be a third wasted chance with three men on -- that completes the gloom cycle for the Yankees because it makes it hard to embrace two big reasons to believe in things heading in the other direction. One is the Yankee starting pitching, which is now six-for-six in giving the team quality starts after Andy Pettitte's work in Game One. 

    Hiroki Kuroda starts on Sunday and he's more than capable of throwing the kind of gem that Pettitte's thrown in past Game Two outings. There's also the fact that Valverde spit the bit on Saturday, his second straight ninth inning meltdown, to underline the edge that the Yankees have when games get tight in the late innings. 

    Those two things look like part of the blueprint for a series win, but only if there's something more than the execrable offensive performance of the last few games to prop them up. The Yankees don't have much turnaround time before Game Two, but it better be enough for their bats to return to life or the gloomy end to Saturday night will start to feel like the gloomy end to the season. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.