Results tagged ‘ AL Division Series ’

Yanks go silently, like their bats

Not to be flippant about it, but the Yankees saved their worst for last. Their season ended with a thud Thursday as Detroit completed a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series with a convincing 8-1 victory. It marked the second consecutive season that the Tigers eliminated the Yankees from the postseason, becoming the first team to do that since the New York Giants in the World Series of 1921 and 1922. A year later, the Yankees won the first of their 27 championships, so maybe this will be a good omen.

Nothing feels good to the Yankees now. Getting swept in a postseason series is something the franchise is not used to. It had not happened to the Yankees since the 1980 ALCS when they lost in three games to the Royals back when the series was still a best-of-5. The Yankees had played 36 postseason series without getting swept before Thursday.

It is not at all that difficult to analyze what went wrong for the Yankees. They simply did not hit. They scored in only three of the 39 innings of the series and only six runs total. They never had the lead for a single inning in the series, something that happened to them only once before, in the 1963 World Series when they were swept by the Dodgers.

Actually, the Yankees’ offense was pretty scarce throughout the postseason, but they were picked up by their pitching staff. The remarkable work of the rotation also ended Thursday as CC Sabathia, who got the Yanks into the ALCS with a complete-game triumph over the Orioles in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, came apart.

But what the Yankees needed more than a big game from CC Thursday was a big game from the lineup. Nick Swisher came up with his first run-scoring hit with a runner in scoring position in this postseason with a double in the sixth inning, but that was it as the team that set a franchise record with 245 home runs this year continued to falter in the postseason. A team that averaged 1.5 home runs per game during the regular season had only seven home runs in nine postseason games.

Raul Ibanez supplied most of the muscle with three dramatic home runs, but the Yankees got no homers from their usual sluggers – Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. It was not just a power outage, either. The Yankees’ team batting average was .157 in the ALCS and .188 overall in the postseason.

Ibanez’s heroics pinch hitting for Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALDS unfortunately created a media circus around A-Rod, who had been rendered helpless against right-handed pitching in postseason play (0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts) and was benched in the final game of the ALDS and the last two games of the ALCS. Rodriguez has taken the blunt of the blame for the Yanks’ ouster, which is unfair.

He was part of the problem but by no means all of it. Eric Chavez, who replaced Rodriguez at third base, was hitless in 16 at-bats and made two costly errors in the ALCS. Curtis Granderson, who hit 43 home runs during the regular season, homered in Game 5 of the ALDS but was 0-for-11 in the ALCS. He had only two hits other than the home runs in 30 postseason at-bats and struck out 16 times. Swisher hit .167 with 10 strikeouts.

Then there was the strange case of Cano, who endured one of the cruelest postseasons for a New York player that brought to mind the struggles of Yankees right fielder Dave Winfield (1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series) and Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges (0-for-21 in the 1952 World Series).

Cano entered the postseason as the hottest hitter in baseball with a streak of nine multi-hit games in which he went 24-for-39, a .615 tear. The All-Star second baseman managed only three hits in 40 postseason at-bats (.075), including 1-for-18 (.056) against Detroit pitching. Cano went 29 at-bats without a hit over one stretch, the longest postseason drought in club history, which covers a lot of ground. This was the Yankees’ 51st postseason covering 73 series.

As it turned out, 2012 was a season in which the Yankees peaked too soon. They were running away with the AL East by mid-July with a double-digit lead and then had to fight and claw to finish in first place at season’s end. The same Baltimore team that hounded them in the regular season pushed them to the full five games of the ALDS. A talented Detroit staff headed by the game’s most talent pitcher, Justin Verlander, kept the Yankees’ bat silenced.

Now silence is all there is left of the Yankees’ season.

Yankees did what they had to do for top seed

Forget all those scenarios about the different possibilities facing the Yankees in postseason play based on what they and Baltimore and Oakland and Texas did Wednesday. The Yanks did what they had to do Wednesday night for the best-case scenario without any assistance from anyone.

The Yankees are not only going to the playoffs but also as the top seed in the American League with the best overall record. Their convincing 14-2 victory over the Red Sox that completed a three-game sweep gave the Yankees their 13th division title over the past 17 seasons and 18th overall. They also bought some time to rest up for their 51st postseason appearance which will begin Sunday in the AL Division Series at the home park of the winner of Friday night’s Wild Card Game between the Orioles and the Rangers.

For the record, the Yankees clinched the division title while they were still at bat in the seventh inning when the Rays’ 4-1 final over the Orioles was announced. The Yanks were accorded a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,393. Earlier in the day, the Athletics crushed the Rangers, 12-5, to displace Texas atop the AL West and earn an ALDS date with the Al Central champion Tigers.

“We still wanted to win our game for the fans,” Derek Jeter said after the game in which he got his major-league-leading 216th hit. “They have been behind us all year.”

The Yankees may have lost all of the 10-game lead in the division they had built up by July 18 but never relinquished first place entirely. They had at least a portion of the lead for 114 days since June 12, and on the last day they were all alone atop the division and the league.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson combined to drive in 10 of the Yankees’ runs and had two home runs each as the Yankees set a franchise record with 245, besting by one the previous mark set in 2009, the last time they won the World Series.

Cano continued his steamy pace with his career-high ninth consecutive multi-hit game, a 4-for-4 gem that included his 32nd and 33rd home runs, two singles, a walk, three runs and six RBI. The second baseman batted .615 with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 39 at-bats in the nine-game stretched and raised his season batting average an astonishing 20 points to .313.

Granderson, the guy who keeps telling everybody that he is not a home run hitter, smacked Nos. 42 and 43 and drove in four runs to finish the season with 105. Yankees manager Joe Girardi must not think of Granderson as a homer hitter, either, because in pinch hitting for his center fielder with rookie Melky Mesa in the seventh inning denied Granderson an opportunity to tie Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera for the league lead.

By that time, Girardi was substituting freely as if a spring-training game to give as many players as possible a chance to appear in the last regular-season game and receive the fans’ appreciation for a wonderful run that can only get better with a successful postseason that the 2010 edition of the Yankees truly earned.

Multiple postseason scenarios from Game 162

Here are the possible postseason scenarios facing the Yankees going into Wednesday night’s 162nd game of the season. They had a one-game lead over Baltimore in the American League East with a record one game better than Texas and Oakland, who entered play against each other Wednesday tied for first in the AL West.

The Atheltics beat the Rangers to complete a sweep and win the West. The Yankees need to win tonight or have the Orioles lose to capture the division crown. The Yankees did not win the season serie against either the Orioles or the A’s.

Here goes:

If the Yankees win tonight: They will be the No. 1 seed and face the winner of the Wild Card Game in a best-of-5 series beginning Sunday at the Wild Card team’s home park.

If the Yankees lose tonight and Baltimore loses: The Yankees will win the AL East and begin the AL Division Series Saturday at Oakland.

If the Yankees lose tonight and Baltimore wins: The Yankees and the Orioles will play a tiebreaker game at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Camden Yards; the winner will be the AL East champ, the loser is the Wild Card to face Texas.

If the Yankees lose tonight, Baltimore loses and Oakland wins: The Yankees will win the AL East and will be the No. 2 seed and begin a best-of-5 ALDS Saturday at Detroit.

If the Yankees lose tonight, Baltimore wins and Oakland wins: The Yankees and the Orioles will play a tiebreaker game at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Camden Yards; the winner will be the AL East champ, the loser will be the Wild Card; if the Yankees win the tiebreaker, they will begin the ALDS Saturday at Detroit; if the Yankees lose the tiebreaker, they will be the Wild Card and play Oakland at the Oakland Coliseum.

Got all that? The point is, the Yankees can make it easy on all of this by just winning tonight.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Raul Ibanez, who hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning Tuesday night and drove in the winning run with a single in the 12th, became the first player in Yankees history to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth and then get a walk-off run batted in later in the same game. He was also the first Yankees player with a game-tying RBI in the ninth and a game-winning RBI in extras since Graig Nettles in 1973. Ibanez was the first Yankees player over the age of 40 to get a game-winning RBI since Enos Slaughter Aug. 4, 1957 in the second game of against the Indians (two-out single in the bottom of the ninth).

It marked the fourth time a Yankees player hit a home run this season to tie a game in the ninth inning or later. Ibanez (who also homered Sept. 22 at the Stadium against the A’s to make the score 9-9 in the 13th) became the first Yankees player to do so twice in the same season since Gary Sheffield in 2004. It was Ibanez’s fourth career pinch-hit home run and second this season (also Sept. 22 against Oakland). Of his 19 home runs, 11 have come in the sixth inning or later and 10 have tied the score or given the Yankees the lead.

Postseason scenarios vary for Yankees

Two hours before the scheduled first pitch Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium and rain is falling steadily. The last thing the Yankees want is to have to play a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday. Tuesday night’s game is bound to have a late start. The Yanks will do whatever is in their power to get this game in.

A pal of mine suggested that the Yankees could wait until the Orioles-Rays game was over before deciding whether to play. If the Orioles lose, the Yanks would win the division and could care less about Wednesday. Playing two games wouldn’t matter in that case. But if the Orioles should win, the Yankees would want to get Tuesday’s game in at all costs.

A major goal of the Yankees is to win home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs, which is definitely possible. They are tied with the Rangers for the best record in the American League and own the tiebreaker over Texas because they won the season series. If the Yankees win home-field advantage, they would open the postseason against the Wild Card team Sunday at the Wild Card club’s field. If the Yankees win the AL East but are second to Texas in record, they would open the AL Division Series Saturday at Detroit. If they finish tied with the Orioles atop the AL East, the Yankees would travel to Baltimore for a one-game playoff for the division title. The winner would advance to the ALDS. The loser would play the Athletics in the Wild Card Playoff Friday.

Got all that?

Me, neither.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine’s lineup for Tuesday night had both Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in it. The Sox took a lot of heat from people around the Orioles for the Triple-A type lineup it fielded Monday night in a 10-2 Yankees victory. Valentine sat Ellsbury because he has struggled recently against lefthanders, and the Yankees were starting CC Sabathia, against whom Ellsbury is a career .214 hitter. Pedroia was out with a fractured left ring finger. He was not supposed to play Tuesday night but talked himself into the lineup if for no other reason than to shut up the Orioles.

The Red Sox have been the longest-running soap opera in the major leagues this season.

Sabathia earned his 15th victory and reached the plateau for the eighth time and sixth season in a row. CC is the only big-league pitcher with at least 15 victories in each of the past six seasons (2007-12). He is the first Yankees pitcher to reach 15 victories in four straight seasons since Ron Guidry (1977-80). Sabathia is also one of six Yankees pitchers to do so in each of first four years with club and the first since Allie Reynolds did it in six consecutive seasons (1947-52). CC went eight innings to get to 200 innings for the sixth straight season (2007-12) and seventh time in his career, joining the Marlins’ Mark Buehrle as only lefthanders to reach the plateau each year since 2007.

One rival gone, another in sight

The Yankees are finally rid of the Rays. It took all year and the help of another team, but Tampa Bay, which shadowed the Yankees all year in one of the tightest division raves races ever, is on the sideline while its American League East competitor will start the AL Championship Series against the Rangers Friday night in Arlington.

The Yankees and the Rays were never more than 2 games removed from each other from July 27 on and were tied 14 times from then until the last day of the season when the Bombers lost in Boston and Tampa Bay won in Kansas City to clinch the division and home field advantage in the playoffs with the best record in the league.

Small good it did the Rays as they lost all three games to Texas at Tropicana Field. Meanwhile, the Yankees swept the Twins with the first two victories coming at Target Field. So the ALCS features two clubs that have yet to lose a post-season game on the road this year.

Perhaps the wild card will turn into a big, fat ace for the Yankees, who have already gotten over the hump with their Division Series triumph, the first time they won a post-season series as a wild-card entry. They had failed to advance to the ALCS in three previous cases, losing to the Mariners in 1995 and to the Indians in 1997 and 2007.

Another break for the Yankees was the Rangers-Rays series going the full five games, forcing Texas and Tampa Bay to use their No. 1 starters, Cliff Lee and David Price, respectively, for the clinching game and thereby making each unavailable in the ALCS until at least Game 3. That’s where it stands now with Lee, who pitched the Rangers to the first post-season series victory in franchise history.

The Yankees know all about Lee, who beat them twice last year in the World Series with the Phillies and who might have worn pinstripes this year if a proposed trade had not fallen through in early July. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was prepared to deal catching prospect Jesus Montero and a couple of other prospects for Lee but not if infielder Eduardo Nunez was one of them.

I can’t say I blame him. Nunez looks like a player with big-league potential, including as a base runner with speed, a quality in short supply in the Bronx. On top of that, Lee is eligible for free agency in the off-season, so the Yankees just may be able to persuade him to sign with them and not have to give up any players in return.

Whatever advantage the Yankees may appear to have in the ALCS would go out the window if they do not win at least one of the games in Texas and preferably two. CC Sabathia was always the choice to start Game 1, of course, and manager Joe Girardi made a good decision in lining up Phil Hughes for Game 2 and Andy Pettitte for Game 3, which is the opposite from the ALDS rotation.

The reasons were clear: Hughes’ career mark at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (2-0 with 15 1/3 scoreless innings) and Pettitte’s post-season experience. Game 3 at Yankee Stadium looms large since that is when Lee will start for the Rangers. That would put him in line to start a possible Game 7 in Texas for all the marbles opposite Pettitte and every other pitcher on the staff. It would, after all, be the last game of the year, so everyone with any life left in his arm is eligible.

Gaining a split in Texas is essential for the Yankees, who after Game 3 would then have to rely on A.J. Burnett in Game 4 before coming back with Sabathia in Game 5. That could change, naturally, depending on where the series stands at that point. Burnett could atone for his sub-par regular season with a decent effort in Game 4, but there was very little evidence in the second half of the season that the righthander can deliver on such a promise.

The Yankees’ last trip to Arlington Sept. 10-12 was a disaster, a three-game sweep that included two walk-offs – including a blown save by Mariano Rivera – and a two-hit, eight-inning gem by Lee. The Yankees simply cannot afford anything close to a repeat of that performance.

The Yankees have a 9-1 post-season record against Texas in Division Series play of 1996, ’98 and ’99 and are riding a nine-game winning streak (the Rangers won Game 1 in 1996 at the Stadium). The Yankees’ Core Four may still be intact from those years, but Darren Oliver is the lone Ranger remaining from that time. This is mostly a new bunch of cowboys in Nolan Ryan’s corral.

Just ask the team that dogged the Yankees all year.

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