What a difference a day makes
New York City-based Yankees super-fan and espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff will be sharing her thoughts on the Yankees' playoff run. She provides her reflections on the Yankees' ALDS Game 2 loss to the Tigers and looks ahead to the pivotal Game 3 in Detroit.
Where have you gone, Andy Pettitte?
From 1995 to his retirement after the 2010 season, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte was the Game 2 starter. Whatever the series -- ALDS, ALCS, World Series -- Pettitte always took the mound for the Yankees to start Game 2. He also started a few Game 1s and Game 6s along the way, but ask any Yankees fan who they associate with Game 2, and the answer is Pettitte. I had the good fortune to attend many of those starts over the years and he rarely disappointed. The left-hander retired with 19 postseason victories (18 with the Yankees, one with the Astros), the most in major league history.
Before Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALDS, Pettitte returned to the Bronx for the first time since his retirement (sob!). In honor of this momentous occasion, I took my Pettitte T-shirt out of retirement and proudly donned it, hoping to bring some good mojo. After his wife Laura performed a serviceable rendition of the national anthem, the 39-year-old took the mound to a rousing ovation at Yankee Stadium, like he has so many times in his career, and threw a strike to Jorge Posada. Unfortunately this was just a ceremonial first pitch from Pettitte; Freddy Garcia actually pitched the game.
Garcia delivered an acceptable performance (5.1 innings, six hits, four runs, three earned runs) and the pitching story of the game was Max Scherzer (more on him below). Yet having Andy Pettitte in the building for the game served as another reminder of the unreliability of the Yankees' starting pitching beyond Sabathia (and after Saturday's performance, Ivan Nova) in a five-game series.
Tip of the cap to Max Scherzer
In a Game I attended at Yankee Stadium on April 3, Tigers starter Max Scherzer allowed four home runs and gave up six earned runs in a barn-burner the Tigers eventually won, 10-7. That homer-happy pitcher was nowhere to be found on Sunday. Despite some early wildness, Scherzer settled in and held the Yankees hitless and hapless, striking out five in six innings. Through five innings, I wondered whether this would be the first no-hitter I would attend in person. Robinson Cano (who else?) broke up the no-hit bid with one out in the bottom of the sixth, much to the relief of the crowd, which had been lulled into stunned silence for most of the afternoon.
After surrendering his second hit in the bottom of the seventh (a single to Jorge Posada), Scherzer was lifted for Joaquin Benoit. I stood and applauded Scherzer as he walked off the mound. When a pitcher has your team's number, you have to acknowledge the effort. This was impressive, especially given the importance of the game and the Yankees' early-season success against him at Yankee Stadium.
What did I say about pitching to Miguel Cabrera?
As I pointed out in my series preview, Miguel Cabrera owns the Yankees. After New York held him hitless in Game 1, I predicted a big game for the major league batting title winner. When he stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning with Magglio Ordonez on base, I yelled, "Just walk him!" Of course Garcia ignored my advice and Cabrera responded with a two-run shot to right field, putting the Yankees in an immediate hole. It was only 336 feet, one of the shortest in postseason history, but it still counts. Cabrera provided the only runs off Garcia that weren't helped along by Yankee errors.
Cabrera finished the game 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, including an RBI single in the top of the sixth off Garcia. Cabrera is now 11-for-26 against Garcia in his career. He's also the first Tigers player with three hits and three RBIs in a postseason game since Kirk Gibson in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. JUST WALK HIM.
Speaking of questionable managerial decisions, why did Yankees manager Joe Girardi bring in ineffective relief pitcher Luis Ayala in the top of the ninth inning, down by only three runs? Everybody in the stands (and on Twitter) had the same reaction -- why?
Posada's Last Stand?
As Jorge Posada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees trailing 5-2 and the crowd going insane after Nick Swisher's solo home run off Tigers closer Jose Valverde, my friend Jodi came to a stunning realization: We could be looking at the longtime Yankee's final home at-bat in pinstripes. There's no guarantee that the ALDS will return to New York for a Game 5, or that the Yankees will advance to the ALCS. If it was Posada's last at bat at home, he made it worthwhile. His 100th career postseason hit was his first career postseason triple. He eventually scored the third run, but the Yankees' ninth inning rally in the pouring rain fell short.
Aces High in Game 3
Instead of New York getting the dream matchup, Verlander and Sabathia will bless Comerica with their presence on Monday night. Both aces will be on two days' rest after they each pitched in the suspended Game 1 Friday night. Sabathia has pitched on three days' rest several times in his career, while Verlander has never pitched on fewer than four. The Yankees will be in desperate trouble if they don't pull out this critical Game 3 win, with the unreliable A.J. Burnett slated to start Game 4.
Sabathia is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA at Detroit with the Yankees in three career starts. But he's the pitcher I want on the mound in a big situation, even against Verlander.