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You can try to blame someone else, but there's really only one guilty party.
The Yankees lost Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, 6-4, Saturday night. The rollercoaster game ended in heartbreaking fashion for the home team.
The Detroit Tigers almost blew it, but found a way to hold onto Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees battled back to tie the Detroit Tigers with four runs in the bottom of the ninth -- highlighted by another dramatic home run from Raúl Ibañez -- only to lose not only the game, but Derek Jeter in the 12th. Jeter suffered a fractured ankle, and won't play again this year.
The Yankees' captain is going to miss the rest of the 2012 playoffs with a fractured ankle suffered during a Game 1 loss on Saturday.
Less than an hour after Raul Ibañez gave the hometown crowd a serious case of the warm fuzzies, everything turned awful for the New York Yankees.
Miguel Cabrera took a leadoff walk in the top of the 12th, and he moved to second on a Prince Fielder ground out. Delmon Young -- already 2-for-5 with two RBIs coming into the at-bat -- rapped his third hit of the night, a line-drive double under the glove of Nick Swisher to score Cabrera from second.
Giving up the lead was the least of the Yankees' worries, though. Jhonny Peralta sent a routine grounder up the middle in the next at-bat, and Derek Jeter did ... something:
Something awful. Jeter couldn't put any weight on his right leg as he came off the field. If he plays in another game this postseason, it will be some Willis Reed ****, for sure.
The Tigers weren't done, as Andy Dirks hit an infield single to give the Tigers a 6-4 lead. Right now, though, the story of this game -- which already had a number of compelling stories -- is Jeter's injury.
Jose Valverde sure knows how to keep a good party going. The former Tigers closer (just a guess) left the field ignominiously in the ninth, but at least he left with the game tied. Which means extra innings. All the extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Yankees had a good scoring chance when Curtis Granderson drew a one-out walk. Pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second, putting the winning run in scoring position. Russell Martin flew out to center, though, and Derek Jeter popped out.
The Tigers went quietly in the top of the 11th inning, with an Alex Avila one-out single providing the only thing close to a rally. David Robertson struck out Austin Jackson and got Omar Infante to pop up and end the threat, such as it was.
The sound of a thousand writers scrapping a thousand recaps all at the same time ...
At first, it looked like the Yankees were going to get a moral victory. Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run homer to right, and that meant a) the Yankees weren't going to get shut out, and b) Jose Valverde was going to be a little uncomfortable the next time he came out for a save situation.
Then Valverde committed the unforgivable closer sin of walking a hitter with a two-run lead to get the tying run to the plate. The tying run happened to be Raul Ibanez.
He couldn't ... nah, there's no way ...
He did. Valverde threw him a 92-m.p.h. fastball down the middle, and somehow that didn't end up well.
It's going to be the Yankees and Cardinals in the World Series, and every game is going to go 18 innings, with David Freese and Ibanez combining for six homers every night. It's going to be the most amazing and horrible thing you've ever seen.
In the top half of the ninth, Jackson hit a leadoff double. More boos rained down from the crowd.
Also of note: Chavez was hitting for Alex Rodriguez again. Down by four, that seems a touch unnecessary, but it's also a little funny. Darkly funny. Kind of sad. Possibly not funny. Interesting! We can agree on interesting.
This had the feel of a Valverde-themed nail biter. They Yankees were getting chance after chance to score, but they couldn't break through. The Tigers went down quietly in the seventh after breaking through in the sixth. This looked like it was going to be a two-run lead, which, by law, was going to require Valverde to let the first runner of the inning get on base.
There was a force stronger than the inevitability of a Valverde nail biter, though. That force was Derek Lowe not being that good these days. Also, Derek Lowe is on the Yankees' playoff roster. Well, I'll be. And Lowe left a sinker up against Delmon Young, and even he can do something with that:
The homer made it 3-0, and Jhonny Peralta rapped another sinker into center for a double to chase Lowe. Boone Logan came in and got a quick grounder, but Avisail Garcia came through with a two-out knock to score the Tigers' fourth run.
The game is Valverde-proof for now. Not that he's a bad pitcher. Just interesting!
Doug Fister's spent half of Game 1 in trouble, and now he's finally out of the game.
After a shaky sixth in which he gave up a couple of runs, Andy Pettitte came out for the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced. But after he walked Omar Infante with his 107th pitch, Pettitte was removed in favor of veteran sinker-baller Derek Lowe.
Lowe struck out Miguel Cabrera with three pitches.
Fister came out for the bottom of the seventh, and struck out Derek Jeter; it was Fister's fourth strikeout in his last five batters, after striking out just one Yankee in the game's first five innings.
Bu when Ichiro Suzuki drove Fister's 106th pitch into left field for a base hit, Fister was finished. Jim Leyland summoned lefty Phil Coke to face Robinson Canó, who took a strike, then fouled off six straight offerings before tapping a weak grounder that catcher Gerald Laird handled. And the threat ended -- yes, another threat ended -- when Mark Teixeira hit a comebacker to Coke.
Mark Teixeira started the bottom of the sixth inning with a grounder into the teeth of the shift, but Omar Infante couldn't handle it in right field. Raul Ibanez hit a chopper that went over first base and into right for a double:
That brought up ...
... wait for it ...
Alex Rodriguez. Because of course it did. The first pitch A-Rod saw from Doug Fister with runners on second and third in the sixth was a perfect first-pitch curveball that nipped the bottom-half of the strike zone for a called strike.
The second pitch he saw was a perfect two-seamer with late movement that bore in on his hands. A-Rod swung through it.
The third pitch he saw was a nasty curve in the dirt. A-Rod waved at it. The crowd loudly voiced their desire for an offseason acquisition of Jay Bruce once more.
Three great pitches from a pitcher who hasn't been sharp with his command all night. So it goes when you're slumping. #prayers4arod
After a Nick Swisher walk loaded the bases, Curtis Granderson struck out. More boos. Russell Martin swung over a slider for yet another strikeout, and Doug Fister did it again. For the third inning of the game, Fister got out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the Yankees scoreless.
Boy, that got out of hand in a hurry. Well, almost.
When Austin Jackson led off the sixth inning, this ALCS opener was still scoreless. But Jackson zipped a hot grounder down the right-field line that bounced off a jutting box, and he made third base without a throw. Omar Infante followed with a fly ball to right field, not deep enough for Jackson to go for home.
Pettitte passed Cabrera on purpose, because Cabrera's the best right-handed hitter in the league and Fielder's a left-handed hitter.
That didn't work so well, because Fielder drove a single into center field to score Jackson with the game's first run. Delmon Young followed that up by dumping a single into right, with Cabrera scoring. And Pettitte made matters worse by walking Jhonny Peralta to load the bases.
That brought up rookie Avisail García, who took a big rip at the first pitch and popped the ball high into the Bronx sky. Eventually it dropped into Robinson Canó's glove, and the Yankees were still very much in the game.
Heading to the bottom of the sixth, it's now Tigers 2, Yankees 0.
Did Yankee fans cost their team a base in the top of the sixth inning?
Austin Jackson led off the sixth and drove a hot grounder just inside first base and down the line ...
Jackson reached third base for a triple, without a throw. In the TBS booth, Ron Darling expressed some surprise that one of the fans in the front row didn't reach over and interfere with the baseball, resulting in a double for Jackson.
But that's not the rule. The rule is that the umpire shall place the runner where he would have wound up, absent the interference. And a good umpire would have recognized that the Yankees had no shot at preventing Jackson from making it all the way to third base.
All of a sudden, I see Willie Mayes appearing on my Twitter timeline and I have no idea what's going on. Then, I see Eric Stangel's screengrab of the TBS telecast.
Really TBS? Babe Rooth wasn't on that list too? twitter.com/EricStangel/st…— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) October 14, 2012
Listen, live television is not easy. And normally I feel bad when these kinds of things get magnified, but this one, well...
-Amy K. Nelson
... to get to the ninth inning, that is. After that, there will be extra innings. The extra innings will also take two hours. Then there will be a break for dinner. Then it will keep going, perpetually, forever waiting for someone to score the first run. The first run will never come.
The world will move on. The outside world will lurch forward, with change being the only constant. Countries will rise and fall, leaders will come and go. Technology will get the outside world in trouble, save the world from trouble, and get it right back in trouble again.
But inside Yankee Stadium, the game will go on, an unending curiosity for people who want a portal into the way the world used to be. It will be a living museum.
"Take me to Yankee Stadium, Parent-Clone 4! I want to see the Eternal Playoff Game!"
In other news, there still isn't any scoring in Game 1. This might still be Game 5 of the ALDS. I don't even know anymore.
Just in case anyone needs more proof, here you go:
This matters because the bases were loaded and if the umpire hadn't missed the call the Yankees would necessarily have scored one run there, and who knows how many later.
Which is to say, they and their fans have a legit beef on this one.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning, two things happened:
Robinson Cano was called out at first when he should have been called safe, and
Doug Fister took a line drive off his pitching wrist.
But not in that order.
You've already seen Canó, who could have been ejected for his emotional ejaculation.
Here's what happened to Fister:
Fister insisted on coming back out for the bottom of the third, while at the same time lefty Drew Smyly was getting warmed up in the bullpen. And things didn't look good early on, as Fister gave up a leadoff single to Mark Teixeira. But he retired the next two Yankees with ease, including (of course) a 6-4-3 double play for Alex Rodriguez.
Following the un-Fister first for Fister, things got back to normal. There was a quick pop-up from Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson struck out. Two quick outs, and everything was as it should be for the Tigers' right-hander.
Then there was two-out magic, such as it is for the 2012 Yankees in the playoffs. Russell Martin lined a single, and Derek Jeter fisted a Fister fastball the fell in front of the fielder for a bloop hit. Ichiro followed with a grounder to short that he beat out in true Ichiro fashion, and that loaded the bases for ...
... Robinson Cano. Which isn't as dramatic as A-Rod. But for the second inning in a row, the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs. And, like the first time, the batter hit the ball hard. Again, though, it was right at someone. Or a piece of someone:
Cano yelled a naughty word, mostly because he was safe, and if this is August, he's probably enjoying the night off. The Yankees were hosed out of at least a run, and for the second straight inning, they left the bases loaded.
It might seem a bit of a stretch, starting 40-year-old Andy Pettitte in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. After all, he's won only five games in the last two years!
But I think an under-reported story this season was how well Pettitte pitched, when he did pitch. He didn't pitch in 2011, then made only a dozen starts this season for the Yankees. But he pitched really well in those dozen starts!
Including his start against the Orioles in the Division Series, Pettitte's got a 2.95 ERA this season, which would rank fourth in the American League if he'd pitched enough to qualify. His 3.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio would rank 12th, right behind teammate Hiroki Kuroda and just ahead of Cy Young candidate David Price.
Would Pettitte regress some, given enough innings? Probably. But he really is a marvel. Oh, and he's looked great against the Tigers in Game 1 of this series. Which is still scoreless, heading to the bottom of the second.
Andy Pettitte threw 12 pitches in the first inning, nine for strikes. He busted right-handers in with cutters, kept his breaking pitches low in the zone, and teased with change-ups away. I've had that paragraph saved in a text file for eight years, and all I have to do is change the number of pitches. What do I do with the time I save? Well, what don't I do?
But if Pettitte followed the successful-Pettitte template, Doug Fister went way off-script. The control maven started the game with a four-pitch walk to Derek Jeter, and after getting Ichiro and Robinson Cano to fly out, Fister walked Mark Teixeira and Raul Ibanez.
That loaded the bases ...
... for Alex Rodriguez.
You kind of figured that's when the reboot sequence would begin, and Fister would start painting. A-Rod figured that too, which is why he was swinging at the first pitch. He hit a line drive!
Alex Rodriguez isn't having a ton of fun out there right now.
Is it possible that the New York Yankees really aren't able to sell every ticket for an American League Championship Series game?
Not to sound like a grouchy old man but there were never any empty seats across the street. Rows of empties in all sections of the Stadium— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) October 14, 2012
We're just getting started, with Tigers batting in the top of the first.
UPDATE: I'm here at Yankee Stadium and 15 minutes into this game and there are at least five sections almost entirely empty. And unlike Friday when it was much the same, the fans don't have traffic and bad start time as an excuse. So what's the deal? Tickets are low as $30 on stub hub ... Pete Abe is right, the old ballpark wouldn't be empty. Here's a shot during the anthem, and the section behind the foul pole is entirely barren.
-Amy K. Nelson
Burning question! Would Alex Rodriguez still be on the bench Saturday for Game 1 of the ALCS, as he was Friday for Game 5 of the division series?
Here's your answer, along with the rest of the Yankees lineup (* indicates lefthanded hitter, # indicates switch-hitter):
This lineup will face Tigers righthander Doug Fister, who threw 6⅓ innings of two-run ball against the Yankees August 8 at Comerica Park. The Tigers eventually lost that game, but it wasn't Fister's fault. Among current Yankees, Swisher, Teixeira and Granderson have homered off Fister; overall, current Yankees are hitting .283 (28-for-99) against the Detroit hurler.
The Yankees will send lefthander Andy Pettitte to the mound for Game 1; Pettitte threw seven innings, allowing three runs, in Game 2 of the Division Series against Baltimore.
This is Leyland's typical lineup against left-handers; he used it in Games 2 and 3 of the division series against the Athletics.
And, a lefthander is who they are facing: Andy Pettitte, who the Tigers did not face during the 2012 regular season. Due to the vagaries of the schedule, Pettitte has not faced the Tigers since April 2008; the only current Tiger who played that day is Cabrera. Peralta should enjoy tonight's matchup; he's 6-for-16 with two walks, a double, a triple and three home runs against the Yankee lefthander, who would tie Dave Stewart for most career wins in the LCS round if he can defeat the Tigers tonight. His opponent will be righthander Doug Fister.
An MLB spokesperson just announced that Hiroki Kuroda will be in the interview room at 4:30 as the Yankees Game 2 starter in the ALCS. So there you have it.
That means Kuroda be pitching on three days' rest, which is interesting since the team had actually been stretching him out and because he's never started on short rest in his big league career.
That obviously creates the question of whether CC Sabathia will start Game 3 on short rest, or will Joe Girardi start Phil Hughes or even throw David Phelps out there?
In any case, it's interesting that Kuroda is tabbed for Game 2 and on short rest. At age 37 and having pitched in Japan when the players are stretched out even more, it doesn't seem to be a perfect solution on paper.
Of note is that Kuroda has been far better at home this year as opposed to the road: He went 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA, throwing two shutouts at Yankee Stadium. While on the road, he went 5-5 with a 4.73, giving up almost as many hits despite throwing 45 fewer innings.
With Monday being an offday, that would give Girardi the ability to have his relievers rested if he has to tap them early and often on Sunday if the Kuroda experiment doesn't work.
-Amy K. Nelson
I'm here at Yankee Stadium and if anyone is coming here tonight, wear extra clothes. It's cold. As in, really cold. Don't have an exact temperature but it's supposed to be in the 40s tonight.
Here is the schedule of pregame events today, in case you were wondering how these things are organized:
4:30 Yankees Game 2 starter (TBA) in the media interview room
4:40 Joe Girardi in the interview room (I like how they only schedule 10 minutes for the player, smart)
5:10-6:10 Yankees batting practice
5:15 Anibal Sanchez in the interview room
5:30 Jim Leyland in the interview room (note how Sanchez is slotted for 5 more minutes than a Yankee starter)
6:00 Gates open
6:10-7:00 Tigers batting practice
7:42-7:52 Baseline introductions *
7:52 Flag unfolded presentation of colors
7:54 National Anthem - Jenna Ushkowitz **
7:57 Ceremonial first pitch - Tino Martinez
8:00 Umpires and managers to home plate
8:05 Yankees take the field
8:07 First pitch
* Which you, the viewer, probably won't see at home because the television networks have to make money. This drives me crazy, and I actually wrote a story a few years ago for ESPN about how upset the Phillies were because the networks wouldn't allow entire team to be introduced. Once my story came out, suddenly they allowed it. Weird.
** OK, first person to correctly guess who this is without looking it up wins...more awesome updates from us.
So, there you have it. A look behind the curtain. Will be back later with lineups.
-Amy K. Nelson
Led by Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers will try to do what they couldn't a year ago: win the ALCS and advance to the World Series. The powerful Yankees stand squarely in the Tigers' way.
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