I am writing at 2 in the morning, after returning home from what I can only describe as the first baseball game I’ve ever attended that felt like a funeral. And I was at Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. This Game 1 loss to the Tigers hurt even more.
The baseball results are painful enough: The Yankees lost a game in which they left 13 runners on base and failed to score in three innings (yes, three separate innings) with the bases loaded. The Yankees lost a game in which they got a solid start from veteran Andy Pettitte but could not get him his 20th postseason victory. The Yankees lost a game in which the team went an abysmal 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees lost a game which saw Raul Ibanez deliver another miraculous did-that-really-just-happen-again game-tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Yet the Yankees could not get it done in extra innings. (The Yankees needed to win it in the 11th because Miggy Cabrera and Prince Fielder loomed in the 12th). Questionable bullpen decisions by Joe Girardi and many factors other factors (Nick Swisher, I’m looking at you) also contributed to the loss.
The biggest loss of all took place in the top of the 12th when Derek Jeter went to his left for a ground ball and stumbled, falling to the ground in a heap. We watched from our seats in Section 322 and gasped as we realized that Jeter was not getting up. Girardi and Yankees trainer Steve Donohue came out of and talked to the fallen shortstop. It all unfolded in slow motion and we watched as they lifted Jeter from the infield dirt and carried him off the field (I didn’t see the look of pain on Jeter’s face until I got home). The fans who stayed started a chant of “Derek Jeter! Clap Clap Clap Clap Clap.”
Once the chant subsided, I’ve never heard a ballpark so silent. A nightmare unfolded before our eyes. The captain had fallen and it did not look good. Was it an Achilles injury? An ACL tear? A broken leg? Fifteen minutes later, as we exited Yankee Stadium in stunned silence following the Tigers’ 6-4 win, we learned via Twitter that Jeter suffered a fractured ankle and would not play again this postseason.
The walk from the Stadium to the subway felt like a funeral procession. Jeter’s injury isn’t life threatening. Nobody actually died. But it sure felt like it. There’s only one player on that field who would have made us feel that way -- Derek Jeter.
Jeter is a postseason constant for the Yankees. He’s first all-time in postseason games played (158), hits (200), total bases (302) and runs scored (111). He’s been one of the team’s few consistent offensive performers this playoffs after a remarkable 2012 season in which he led the American League in hits. When was the last time the Yankees played a postseason game without Jeter? Oct. 8, 1995. It’s almost impossible to fathom a postseason without him at shortstop.
I know the series is far from over, but the prospects don’t look great. The Yankees have Hiroki Kuroda going on short rest in a must-win Game 2 (Verlander awaits in Game 3), a lineup filled with guys who can’t hit their weight, an overextended bullpen and an injured captain.
Yankee fans have already had to deal with the prospect of facing the postseason without Mariano Rivera. But to be playing in October without Jeter? The unthinkable is happening. And it starts on Sunday afternoon.