Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Yanks’ clubhouse revolving door keeps spinning

The door keeps revolving in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Pitcher Dellin Betances was the latest arrival from Triple A Scranton for Thursday night’s series finale against the Mariners. The righthander was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances totaling 28 1/3 innings.

Heading back to Scranton was pitcher Brett Marshall, who made his major-league debut in Wednesday night’s 12-2 loss to Seattle. The righthander threw 108 pitches and allowed five earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings but was praised by manager Joe Girardi for saving the bullpen. Marshall deserves credit for taking one for the team in taking punishment to keep the relief corps from having to toil in a lopsided loss.

Betances was the choice for promotion because Marshall would not be available to pitch for at least four days. Adam Warren pitched four innings only three days ago, so the Yankees need a middle-innings reliever who can give them some length. Girardi said that Betances was the most stretched-out of the pitchers at Scranton.

Marshall was one of five players to make their major-league debuts for the Yankees in the first 40 games. The others were pitchers Preston Claiborne and Vidal Nuno and infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph. The Elias Sports Bureau points out that the previous time as many as five players made their big-league debuts with the Yankees within the club’s first 40 games was in 1995 – pitchers Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Brian Boehringer and Jeff Patterson and shortstop Derek Jeter.

Adams, who also played in his first major-league game Wednesday night on his 26th birthday, was only the fourth player in 95 seasons to get a hit in his first game on his birthday. The others were the Cleveland Indians’ Dave Clark Sept. 3, 1986 at Toronto, the Atlanta Braves’ Bruce Benedict Aug. 18, 1978 at St. Louis and the Washington Senators’ Sept. 13, 1939 in the second game of a doubleheader at Chicago, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Another familiar face Thursday night was that of Mariners starter Hector Noesi, who pitched for the Yankees in 2011 and was traded with catcher Jesus Montero to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch for the Yankees. Montero was Noesi’s catcher Thursday night.

The Blue Jays come to Yankee Stadium Friday night to open a three-game series. Probable starting pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda (5-2, 2.31) vs. Mark Buehrle (1-2, 6.19) at 7:05 p.m. Friday on Channel 9, David Phelps (1-2, 4.33) vs. Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.69) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday on YES and CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.19) vs. R.A. Dickey (3-5, 4.83) at 1:05 p.m. on YES. All games are on WCBS Radio (880 AM).

Sunday’s matchup will mark the third time this season that Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, will be paired against a fellow recipient of that honor. The other games were April 7 against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (2011), a 7-0 Yankees victory at Detroit, and May 14 (Tuesday night) against the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2010), a 4-3 Yanks victory at the Stadium. CC got the victory over Detroit and a no-decision against Seattle. Dickey was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Mets and was traded to the Blue Jays.

CC, ensemble hitting end Yanks’ slide

The Yankees needed CC Sabathia to be a stopper Sunday, a losing streak stopper in the traditional sense, and that is what he was. Seven shutout innings against one of the toughest lineups in baseball tamed the Tigers and sent the Yankees off to Cleveland in a good frame of mind.

The 7-0 victory was an ensemble effort. Sabathia’s work was the centerpiece, but he had plenty of support. The Yankees knocked out 13 hits with all but one of the regulars (Lyle Overbay) contributing to the effort. Seven of the hits came off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who left with one out in the eighth inning trailing 3-0.

Jayson Nix out of the 9-hole had the big hit off Verlander, a two-run home run in the second inning off a 2-1 changeup from Verlander, who probably wished he had stayed with the gas. Nix, hitless in seven at-bats with five punchouts prior to Sunday, had a field day with two other hits and two runs scored while filling in at shortstop for injured Eduardo Nunez (bruised right bicep). Nunez cannot throw right now, but he came in handy as a pinch runner for Travis Hafner (two hits) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki (his first RBI of the season) in the eighth.

A run-scoring double in the second inning and a two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth for Francisco Cervelli gave the catcher the club lead in RBI with five.

Kevin Youkilis continued his hot start (.409) with a double off Verlander in the first inning and a two-run single off Octavio Dotel in the ninth. Are Yankees fans finally warming up to this guy? I know he annoyed fans this spring with that “I’ll always be a Red Sox” quote in reference to his time in Boston, but that just meant that he could not ignore what he had accomplished there. That was the opposite of what Wade Boggs said in his first spring training with the Yankees in 1993 that his 11 years with the Red Sox “never happened.” Really? Five batting titles did not count? We would all come to get used to Boggsy’s off-the-beam perspective on things.

Sabathia admitted to writers after the game that he did not have his best stuff, except for his changeup, which is becoming almost as important a weapon as his slider. CC was annoyed at himself for working in so many deep counts. The seventh inning, his last, was the only 1-2-3 inning for him, but he stranded seven Tigers runners over the first six innings and was especially effective against the 3-4-5 mashers Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, who were a combined 0-for-9 against him. Overall, CC limited the Tigers to four singles and three walks with four strikeouts.

David Robertson followed Sabathia with a scoreless eighth, and in a non-save situation Mariano Rivera gave up two hits in the ninth but no runs in what might have been his farewell appearance in front of a Detroit audience (unless the clubs match up in postseason play as they did last year). The Tigers showed class by honoring Mo before the game with Detroit manager Jim Leyland unveiling a plaque of Rivera pitching at Comerica Park and old Tiger Stadium and containers of dirt from each field.

The Yankees did not let themselves get bullied by Verlander, who for all his accomplishments is only a .500 pitcher in his career against them. His record against the Yankees fell to 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, during which he has allowed 90 hits, including 11 home runs.

Youkilis draws Verlander’s ire

It looked as if there might be some fireworks early on in Sunday’s game when Tigers starter Justin Verlander had words with the Yankees’ Kevin Youkilis as the third baseman stood on second base after whacking a double in the first inning.

Lip readers could detect Verlander saying to Youkilis, “Did you say something?” a couple of times. Youk just responded, “What?” Yankees first base coach Mick Kelleher and Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder trotted to the bag to make sure anything between Verlander and Youkilis didn’t get any more heated.

A replay of Youkilis running to first base after the hit showed that he may have said something. At least his mouth was open at one point. Why that bothered Verlander is anyone’s guess. The issue did not carry over into Youkilis’ next at-bat, however. No close pitches by Verlander, who ended up walking Youk in the third inning.

As great a pitcher as Verlander is, he has not been invincible against the Yankees. He entered Sunday’s game with a 5-4 career record against them with a 3.74 ERA and 83 hits allowed, 10 of them home runs, in 77 innings. The Yankees struck for three runs against the righthander in the second inning on an RBI double by Francisco Cervelli and a two-run home run by Jayson Nix. The bomb was good to see from Nix, who had been 0-for-7 with five strikeouts this season. He was starting again at shortstop because Eduardo Nunez still cannot throw with his bruised right bicep.

Yanks’ pitchers stumbling out of gate

Much of the concern about the 2013 Yankees has centered on the offense, what with the loss of 194 home runs in players gone from the 2012 team and the season-opening injuries to four key position players – Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. What the Yankees were counting on to offset the lineup changes was quality pitching. Yet it is the pitching that has been a main culprit in the club’s 1-4 start.

Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Tigers was the latest example of shabby pitching. The Yankees were hoping for a boost from Phil Hughes, removed from the disabled list and thrust into the rotation over David Phelps, who returned to long relief. Well, Phelps got into the game anyway because Hughes lasted only three batters into the fifth inning and was hit hard – four runs (three earned) and eight hits.

Boone Logan, the Yankees’ lone lefthander in the bullpen, had another troublesome outing against Detroit’s left-handed hitters. Friday, he yielded a three-run home run to Prince Fielder, who was the first batter Logan faced again in the fifth inning Saturday. Logan kept Fielder in the park this time, but a single gave the Detroit first baseman his sixth RBI of the series. Logan gave up an RBI single later in the inning to another left-handed hitter, Andy Dirks.

The Yankees came back from a 5-1 deficit to make it a one-run game by scoring three runs in the sixth. A tiring Max Scherzer walked Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis to start the inning and yielded a single to Travis Hafner that resulted in the righthander’s departure. Al Alburquerque walked Vernon Wells to load the bases, but Brennan Boesch lined into a double play. After another walk, Alburquerque gave up a two-run single to Lyle Overbay.

Just when the Yankees got back into the game, Phelps failed to produce a shut-down inning and allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth as the Tigers began to pull away again. Joba Chamberlain, whose ERA is a glaring 21.60, was wild (two walks, one wild pitch) in allowing a run in the eighth.

The Tigers finished with 17 hits, including four by Miguel Cabrera and three apiece by Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter. It could have been worse for the Yankees, but Detroit had 4-for-15 (.267) with runners in scoring position.

The amount of hits Yankees pitchers have allowed is alarming – 61 in five games, an average of 12.2 knocks per game. Opponents are batting .339 in 180 at-bats against the Yanks. Meanwhile, Yankees hitters are batting only .219 in 160 at-bats. They do have six home runs (Wells got his second of the season Saturday), so the power outage expected has not actually materialized, but the offense has been unable to compensate for the pitching problems. The Yankees have been outscored, 33-17. Detroit relievers have combined for seven scoreless innings against the Yanks the past two games.

Staff ace CC Sabathia gets the opportunity to be a stopper Sunday in the series finale at Comerica Park. One major hurdle, however, is that the Tigers’ scheduled starter is Justin Verlander. It is a dream matchup of former American League Cy Young Award winners, and the pressure is on CC to turn the staff in a positive direction.

Sore fingers crossed, Kuroda still in rotation

There appeared to be no lingering effects to pitcher Hiroki Kuroda’s right middle finger that was struck by a line drive and ultimately was responsible for his early departure from Wednesday night’s game. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Kuroda remained on schedule to make his next start Monday night at Cleveland.

Prior to facing the Indians in a four-game series at Progressive Field, the Yankees have a hurdle with a three-game set this weekend at Detroit’s Comerica Field. Probable starters for the Yanks in the matchup against the Tigers are Ivan Nova at 1:05 p.m. Friday against Doug Fister in the defending American League pennant winners’ home opener, David Phelps at 4:05 p.m. Saturday against Max Scherzer and CC Sabathia at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against Justin Verlander in a pairing of former AL Cy Young Award winners.

Thursday night’s lineup for the Yankees had Robinson Cano in the 2-hole with Ichiro Suzuki dropping to sixth. Girardi said he wanted to separate his left-handed hitters now that he no longer has switch hitters in the order, but I suspect giving Cano an extra at-bat perhaps was also part of the decision.

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.

Yanks face 0-3 deficit for 4th time in postseason play

The Yankees trail in the American League Championship Series, 0-3, for the first time in 10 ALCS appearances since the advent of the best-of-7 format in 1985. It is the fourth time in 71 postseason series that the Yankees have trailed 0-3. The other times were all in the World Series, in 1922 against the Giants (which included a Game 2 tie), 1963 against the Dodgers and 1976 against the Reds. In each case, the Yankees lost in four games.

This is the fifth time in 27 ALCS under the best-of-7 drill that a team has taken a 3-0 lead in the series. The only team to rally from 0-3 to win the ALCS was the 2004 Red Sox against the Yankees. Each of the other three teams to go down 0-3 were swept in four games – 1988 Red Sox, by the Athletics; 1990 Red Sox, by the A’s; 2006 A’s, by the Tigers. . .In each of their six ALCS, the Tigers have won Game 3, with all six games coming at home: 3-0 against the A’s in 1972; 1-0 against the Royals in 1984; 7-6 against the Twins in 1987; 3-0 against the Athletics in 2006; 5-2 against the Rangers in 2011 and 2-1 against the Yankees in 2012. The Tigers have won five of their past six ALCS games in Detroit.

Tigers Game 3 starter Justin Verlander ran his consecutive postseason shutout innings streak to 23 before he allowed a run in the ninth inning of Game 3 on the home run by Eduardo Nunez. It was the first home run Verlander yielded in the ninth inning of his career, postseason included. Nunez was the 85th batter the Verlander has faced in the ninth inning in his career. The Yankees did not score in 20 straight innings before Nunez’s homer. They were also shut out in 20 straight innings in the 2000 postseason against the Athletics (ALDS) and Mariners (ALCS).

Robinson Cano ended his streak of hitless at-bats at 29 with a two-out single in the ninth inning. It was the longest postseason hitless stretch in franchise history. The MLB record is 42 straight hitless at-bats by Mariners catcher Dan Wilson. . . Eric Chavez has started the 2012 postseason without a hit in 14 at-bats, which ties the longest streak by a Yankees player at the start of a postseason. Graig Nettles began the 1981 postseason with 14 hitless at-bats. The major-league record for hitless at-bats at the start of a postseason is 22 by the Cardinals’ Dal Maxvill in the 1968 World Series against the Tigers.

Alex Rodriguez, who was on the bench in Game 3, was not the only player with 600 or more career home runs to sit out a postseason game for which he was eligible. There were three others – Ken Griffey Jr. (Game 2 of the 2008 ALDS for the White Sox against the Rays), Willie Mays (Games 1 through 4 of the 1973 NLCS for the Mets against the Reds and Games 4 through 7 of the 1973 World Series for the Mets against the A’s) and Jim Thome (Games 1 and 5 of the 2012 ALDS for the Orioles against the Yankees). Babe Ruth played in all four games of the 1932 World Series for the Yankees against the Cubs, the only postseason series of his career that came after he hit his 600th home run. Barry Bonds played in all 17 of the Giants’ postseason games in 2002 and all four Giants’ postseason games in 2003, the only two postseasons to come after his 600th homer. Henry Aaron and Sammy Sosa did not play on teams that advanced to postseason play following their 600th home runs.

Through eight postseason games this year, the Yankees are batting .200 in 290 at-bats. The previous low-water mark for the Yankees’ first eight postseason games was .207 in the 1921 World Series against the Giants, which was then a best-of-9. Only two Yankees teams have finished a postseason with lower batting averages, the World Series clubs of 1962 (.199 in a 7-game victory over the Giants) and 1963 (.171 in a 4-game loss to the Dodgers). . .Through eight postseason games, the Yankees’ team ERA is 2.25, which would be the 10th-best for a single postseason in franchise history. It is the lowest mark since the team’s 1.60 ERA in the Yanks’ 5-game World Series victory over the Reds in 1961.

Miguel Cabrera’s fifth-inning double extended his LCS hitting streak to 16 games, dating to the 2003 National League Championship Series for the Marlins, breaking the previous mark of 15 straight LCS games with hits by Pete Rose and Manny Ramirez. . . Cabrera has reached base safely in all 19 career postseason games with the Tigers. His streak set a franchise record, passing the 18-game mark of Hank Greenberg from Oct. 3, 1934 to Oct. 4, 1945. During the 19-game streak, Cabrera is batting .303 with seven doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI, 10 runs scored, 16 walks and one hit batter in 66 at-bats. Only one player in history began his postseason career with a single team with a longer streak of reaching base – Boog Powell, who reached base in his first 25 postseason games with the Orioles from 1966-71. Cabrera has failed to reach base in two of his 36 career postseason games with the Marlins and Tigers.

Delmon Young has five home runs over consecutive postseason series against the Yankees – the 2011 ALDS and 2012 ALCS. Young is one of only five players with a combined five home runs in consecutive postseason series against the Yankees. Duke Snider did it three times (4 HR in 1952 World Series, 1 HR in 1953 World Series, 4 HR in 1955 World Series, 1 HR in 1956 World Series). The others are George Brett (3 HR in 1978 ALCS, 2 HR in 1980 ALCS), Juan Gonzalez (5 HR in 1996 ALDS, 0 HR in 1998 ALDS) and David Ortiz (2 HR in 2003 ALCS, 3 HR in 2004 ALCS). Chase Utley (2008 World Series) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1995 ALDS) each hit five home runs in one postseason against the Yankees, but they have not faced the Yankees again in the postseason.

Tigers push Yanks to 0-3 precipice in ALCS

Jose Valverde was not around to give the Yankees a helping hand Tuesday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series as he did in Game 1 when they came back from a 4-0 deficit to push it into extra innings.

The margin was half that this time, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland instead stayed with his starter, and who could blame him when the starter was Justin Verlander? After eight innings of getting nothing off the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner other than two singles by Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees actually chased Verlander from the game but could not shove it into extras against lefthander Phil Coke, who gave up a couple of two-out singles before ending the game with a dazzling 3-2 slider to strike out Raul Ibanez.

Cut Ibanez some slack. He cannot do it all, even though it seems that he must. The Yanks are the last place they want to be – down, three games to none to the Tigers in the ALCS. Only once in the history of best-of-seven postseason baseball has a club overcome that deficit. The Yankees do not need to be reminded about that. They were on the other side of that equation in 2004 when the Red Sox ran off four straight victories to get to the World Series where they won four more in a row to end the Curse of the Bambino.

Although it must pain the Yankees to rely on something the Red Sox did for inspiration, that is the dilemma they find themselves in now. Having ace CC Sabathia on the mound for Game 4 Wednesday night is a plus, but, frankly, to this point pitching has not been the Yanks’ problem. They have a staff ERA of 3.10, which should not result in a record of 0-3.

Despite the ninth-inning rally Tuesday night, the Yankees’ offense remains anemic. Their only run in Game 3 came on a leadoff homer in the ninth off Verlander by Eduardo Nunez, who was not even on the Yankees’ original roster for the ALCS. He was added when Derek Jeter had to be removed because of a left ankle fracture sustained in the final inning of Game 1.

Nunez’s homer ended a scoreless streak of 20 innings for the Yankees, who have scored in only two of 30 innings in this series and have not had the lead in any one of them. They are hitting a collective .182 with a .291 slugging percentage in the ALCS.

A single by Mark Teixeira in a gritty at-bat and an opposite-field knock by Robinson Cano to halt a hitless string of 29 at-bats, the longest in franchise history in postseason play, kicked the Yankees in gear with two down in the ninth, but it was awfully late. Ibanez did not have another miracle in his bat.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi altered his lineup somewhat, but the results except for Nunez were not all that favorable. Brett Gardner, who played left field and batted leadoff, was 0-for-4 at the plate and failed to get a ball out of the infield. Eric Chavez, who started at third base over Alex Rodriguez, was 0-for-3 and made an error that led to an unearned run that was the difference in the game.

A-Rod was not only benched but also buried on it. He was not even called on to bat as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Coke. Girardi reasoned that had he summoned Rodriguez to hit for Ibanez the Tigers would have countered with righthander Joaquin Benoit. The manager preferred the Ibanez-vs.-Coke matchup than Rodriguez-vs.-Benoit.

That may not have been vintage Verlander out there, but the Yankees did no real damage against him. He had only three strikeouts but did not walk anyone. Verlander may have fallen out of his rhythm in the lengthy fourth and fifth innings when the Yankees made several pitching changes, but he did not cave in.

And still, due in large part to outstanding ensemble work by five relievers, the Yankees were in the game. Verlander would have been pitching with a more comfortable margin had the Tigers not stranded 10 base runners – six in scoring position – over the first six innings. It was another example of Yankees pitchers doing their jobs and Yankees hitters not doing theirs.

For all the success in the Yankees’ storied history of 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants, the ALCS loss in 2004 remains a deep wound that would finally be healed if they could pull the same trick. The task begins with Game 4. They should not think of anything else but that until a victory leads to Game 5…and Game 6…and Game 7. Lord knows the Yanks know it is possible.

Yankees fans have their own debate

Hours before the Presidential debate at Hofstra, Yankees fans had plenty to debate about the team’s lineup for American League Championship Series Game 3 at Detroit’s Comerica Park. No Alex Rodriguez. No Nick Swisher. Eduardo Nunez is playing shortstop. Where do we begin?

Well, the starting point is that the Yankees are down 0-2 in the series with no Derek Jeter, the next three games (they hope; it could be only two) in the other club’s yard and the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner on the mound Tuesday night. How’s that for backs against the wall?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that the lack of production from A-Rod and Swish in the postseason needed to be replaced by something different. Brett Gardner, who has had three at-bats since April, was inserted in left field and the leadoff spot with Ichiro Suzuki moving to right field and batting second.

Gardner joins Ichiro and Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees their swiftest outfield, which is important at spacious Comerica and a fly-ball pitcher, Phil Hughes, starting for them. Despite hitting two home runs during the regular season off Verlander, Rodriguez has been struggling big-time right-handing pitching in the postseason, which has resulted in Girardi lifting him for pinch hitters twice and benching him in the final game of the AL Division Series.

Using Eric Chavez at third base allows Girardi to get another left-handed batter, Raul Ibanez, the postseason batting star for the Yankees, in the lineup as the designated hitter. Nunez at short is definitely a gamble. He is a liability on defense, but the Yankees need a boost in offense (they were held scoreless in 21 of 22 innings in the first two games).

Let’s face it; the whole lineup is a gamble. When you are in the situation the Yankees are, rolling the dice is all that is left.

Not a happy birthday for the Skipper

Joe Girardi, who certainly did not have a good time on his 48th birthday, was understandably upset with the second straight bad call by a umpire on the bases Sunday night. The problem with much of his argument in the case of ALCS Game 2 was that the Yankees did not score at all. The two runs the Tigers scored after the missed call in the eighth inning surely hurt, but they did not cost the Yankees the game. No team can win a game, zero to minus-one.

The Yankees fell behind 0-2 in the ALCS with a 3-0 loss, which was not the scenario they would want heading into Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner and a Cy Young Award candidate in 2012 as well.

The Yanks need a big game from Phil Hughes like the strong effort he gave them in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles to get back into this series. That will not be enough, however. The Yankees have gotten above-average work from their starting pitchers during the postseason. Hiroki Kuroda was the latest example Sunday. He flirted with a perfect game for five innings, and those two runs in the eighth that were charged to his record were definitely tainted.

Yankees starters in the seven postseason games have pitched to a 2.33 ERA in 54 innings, but their record is a combined 2-2 with three no-decisions, due primarily to scant run support. The Yankees have scored 11 runs from the ninth inning on in postseason play but only nine runs in innings one through eight. They have been shut out in the first eight innings of both games in the ALCS and were flat-out shut out in Game 2.

It was not the sort of game the Yankees wanted the day after losing their captain, Derek Jeter, for the rest of the year to an ankle injury. Jayson Nix did a nice job in the field at shortstop but was 0-for-3 at the plate. I am not singling him out by any means. If the Yankees need Jayson Nix to save their season, they are in more trouble than they think they are.

Robinson Cano, who was at the center of the two baseline calls the past two games at Yankee Stadium, had his hitless streak reach 26 at-bats, the longest in postseason history, and only five of those outs have gone to the outfield. In Game 1, Cano was called out on a rally-killing double play in the second inning when replays indicated he beat the throw.

With the margin of error so miniscule, plays such as the one in the eighth inning Sunday become magnified, to the point that a manager got himself ejected. Kuroda got the first two outs on strikeouts before Omar Infante singled to center. Austin Jackson followed with a single to right. Nick Swisher, detecting that Infante had made a wide turn around second but had changed his mind about going to third, threw behind the runner. Second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Infante was safe getting back to second, but replays clearly showed that Cano had tagged Infante near his chest before he touched the bag. The Tigers added tag-on runs with singles by rookie Avisail Garcia off Boone Logan and Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain.

“I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort because he hustled to get to the play,” Girardi said. “But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has got to change. These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake. We play 235 days to get to this point, and two calls go against us. We lose it by one run [Saturday] night.

“I’m not saying if Robby Cano is safe, that it changes the game. The outcome may be the same, but I like to take my chances. There is more pressure on the pitchers when it is 1 0 in the eighth inning and your club is hitting than 3 0. It’s a lot easier for a reliever to relax. He knows if he makes one mistake, it is still 3 1. The technology is available. That’s what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better.”

All right, the argument about using instant replay more often should be continued, and the issue should be taken seriously. What the Yankees need now more than instant replay is to get some clutch hits or they can forget reaching the World Series.

“We have to make some adjustments,” Girardi said. “We have to take what they give us and find a way to put balls in play when runners are on, and get runners in, and get them over, and do the things that you need to do to score runs.”

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