Your mileage might vary when it comes to team attitude or clubhouse mentality, and how it affects on-field performance. But if you were looking for a flat Yankees team after the season-ending injury to Derek Jeter, a flat, moribund team is exactly what showed up in Game 2 of the ALCS. The Tigers shut the Yankees out, 3-0, taking a commanding two-game lead in the series before heading to Detroit.
Early on, Hiroki Kuroda looked like he was going to be the story. Starting on three days rest for the first time in his major-league career, Kuroda struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced, and he didn't allow a baserunner until the top of the sixth inning. He was pulled in the eighth after a blown call with two outs, but allowed just five hits in 7⅔ innings.
Kuroda struck out 11 on the night, the most by a Yankee in a postseason game since Roger Clemens struck out 15 in Game 4 of the 2000 NLCS, and it ties Kuroda for third-highest single-game strikeout total in Yankees playoff history. And Yankees playoff history goes back, like, 10 games, at least.
Kuroda did allow those five hits, though, and he allowed a couple of them in an unfavorable sequence in the seventh. Quintin Berry led off the inning by ripping a hanging curve to deep center for a ground-rule double. Miguel Cabrera followed with a sharp single to right, sending Berry to third. After Prince Fielder struck out, Delmon Young hit a foul pop into the stands:
The fan was wearing an Alex Rodriguez shirsey, too, which is as first-year-film-student metaphor as you can get. After the dropped foul pop, Young grounded to short, but Robinson Canó couldn't handle the relay and complete the double play, and Berry scored the first run of the game, putting the Tigers on top.
Of note is that with that RBI, Delmon Young moved into third place on the Tigers' all-time postseason leader board with his 12th career playoff RBI, putting him behind Hank Greenberg (22) and Kirk Gibson (13). And if you're thinking this is all a function of longer postseasons, it kind of is: Young now has the second-most playoff at-bats in Tigers history behind Greenberg. Delmon Young: Franchise Icon, everybody.
In the eighth inning, the Tigers struck again, but they needed an assist from the umpires. After Kuroda struck out the first two hitters of the inning, Omar Infante singled. Austin Jackson followed that with a single, and Infante took a wide turn around second. Nick Swisher threw behind him:
Second-base umpire Jeff Nelson's view was blocked by Infante's horse, but still … yeesh. The blown call chased Kuroda from the game, and the Tigers kept hitting. Avisail Garcia flipped a ball into right for an RBI single, and that was followed by an RBI single from Miguel Cabrera, putting the Tigers up 3-0.
Raúl Ibañez is going to screw this recap up, isn't he? I'll just hang back for a bit ….. aaaand, he can't be the tying run in the ninth now. Moving on.
As good as Kuroda was, Anibal Sanchez was just as good for the Tigers, throwing seven full innings, walking three, and allowing three hits. The Yankees' best chance might have been in the first, when they had two on and two out for Russell Martin, who grounded out. Or the best chance might have been in the sixth, when they had two on and two out for Martin, who grounded out. Also of note: Russell Martin didn't have a very good game.
The only Yankee who did was Ibañez, really, who was 1-for-2 with two walks. The usual suspects were involved: Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, and Canó was 0-for-4. Canó's oh-fer made him 0 for his last 26 in the 2012 postseason, which is the longest streak in history.
Sanchez's scoreless outing gave the Tigers a 29-inning shutout streak for their starters. The last run allowed by a Tigers starter came in the fifth inning of ALDS Game 3, when Sanchez allowed a homer to Seth Smith in the fifth inning.
With a three-run lead, Jose Valverde was a no-show for the Tigers after his blown save in Game 1. Phil Coke pitched the last two innings for the save.
So now the Tigers head to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead, with Game 3 on Tuesday. The dispirited Yankees should be there, too. There's a cottage industry built around expecting a Yankees collapse, though, and it's a pretty disappointing industry.