Yanks on the Brink After 2-1 Loss in Game Three - NBC New York

Yanks on the Brink After 2-1 Loss in Game Three

Joe Girardi shuffles the deck, but still draws a losing hand.



    Bruce Beck caught up with Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner in a somber Yankees locker room after Game 3 of the ALCS. The Yankees trail the Detroit Tigers 3-0 in the series, and are one loss away from elimination. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012)

    Well, at least the Yankees scored this time. 

    Eduardo Nunez ran into a breaking pitch from Justin Verlander, who had totally shut them down over the first eight innings, to lead off the top of the ninth inning and his home run ended a 20-inning scoreless streak for the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

    That would be the only run they got in a 2-1 loss that leaves CC Sabathia starting with the season on the line on Wednesday. 

    Verlander would leave the game after getting Brett Gardner to bounce back to the mound, ending an excellent night for him and leaving the game in the hands of new Tigers closer Phil Coke. Coke walked Mark Teixeira and gave up a single to Robinson Cano, snapping Cano's 29 at-bat run without a hit. 

    That brought up Raul Ibanez, the only hero the Yankees have had in the lineup this post-season, with the chance to put another notch in his playoff bedpost. Coke struck him out after a long at-bat with a slider, though, and the Tigers are on the brink of the World Series. 

    Verlander is the best pitcher in the game right now, so there usually wouldn't be any shame in getting carved up in this matter. Usually, though, your team doesn't fail to score in all but two innings of the ALCS. 

    And, frankly, the Yankees helped out Verlander quite a few times by swinging at ball four to make sure that the offensive futility continues as long as possible. That's not to say that Verlander wasn't brilliant -- three hits and no walks in a second straight playoff gem -- but that it probably wouldn't take a pitcher of his caliber to shut down the Yankees right now.

    Joe Girardi shook up his lineup before the game, sending Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher to the bench in exchange for Eric Chavez and Brett Gardner. It's hard to know if Girardi did this because he's playing to the rancor in New York, because he actually thought it would work or because he's just picking lineups out of a hat at this point, but it served to underscore how screwed up this offense is right now under any circumstances. 

    Benching A-Rod, even if he uses the time to chat up the ladies, upsets no one, but Chavez hasn't had a hit in the postseason. Gardner hasn't played in months and Swisher hasn't been any worse than Curtis Granderson or Cano, both of whom played and contributed nothing but more pain and suffering. 

    It's hard to find too much quibble, though, because it would involve arguing in favor of someone playing terrible baseball. There's much more value in arguing that Girardi should have pinch hit for Ibanez, who hit .197 with no homers against lefties in the regular season, but Ibanez has been the only guy with spark and, again, the other options have been awful. 

    The end result was a starting nine that looked like it should have been playing in Clearwater on March 13th in a split squad game. The performance was about the same. 

    Cano's night we've covered, but it bears mentioning again because it is simply so baffling to see a hitter of his credentials be 3-for-36 over the course of the eight playoff games. Granderson, who Joe Girardi said was playing because of defense, misplayed a Miguel Cabrera ball into a run-scoring double in addition to going 0-for-3. 

    Phil Hughes was out of the game by that point, leaving after allowing another home run to Delmon Young in the fourth with what was called a leg injury. The Yankee pitching continues not to be a problem in this series with Boone Logan keeping the Yankee chances alive by getting Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the sixth. 

    Ichiro Suzuki got both of the team's hits before Nunez's homer and just about everyone else went back to the dugout after meekly making out. Once again, the team couldn't even muster any loud outs to make you think that there was a chance that a hitting breakthrough was coming. 

    If it doesn't come on Wednesday, the Yankees will start the offseason on Thursday with serious questions about what in the world has happened to their lineup. Changes are coming either way -- Swisher's ticked out of town has been all but printed -- but the fallout from this performance might wind up being bigger than anyone might have expected. 

    Sabathia could put those decisions off a while and create home for a 2004 Red Sox-style turnaround, but we wouldn't count on it unless he's also going to be hitting a couple of home runs. 

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

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