There is a kind of grim, car-accident fascination that comes with watching the New York Yankees’ lineup of vaunted sluggers come to the plate batter after batter against the Detroit Tigers and flail at the air. The next thing you know, Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig will grant them special dispensation to hit from a tee for the remaining games of the American League Championship Series.
As they trail 3-0 in the best-of-seven AL tournament to determine the league’s World Series representative, the Yankees are batting a collective .182. Just about the only guy in the lineup who was hitting was Derek Jeter and he broke his ankle and went out for the year in Game 2. In theory, the Yankees have the deepest roster in baseball. In reality, manager Joe Girardi is having the same difficulty as scout Clint Eastwood in his recent baseball movie–trying to find someone who can hit the curveball.
Alex Rodriguez is hitting so badly discussion of his career may finally make it off of the back pages of the New York tabloids and be relocated onto the obituary pages. Nick Swisher found a seat on the bench next to A-Rod as Girardi tried to shake things up before Tuesday night’s hopeless game against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander. The Yankees came close, but lost 2-1. That’s because even though their own pitching was fine, the hitting was still mired in the muck. The one run they did get came off the bat of the unheralded Edwin Munez, who was hitting .167 before his late-game home run.
All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, meanwhile, is setting records for post-season batting futility. His average is South of A-Rod’s at .071. And when was the last time Curtis Granderson (.000), he of the 43 regular-season home runs, made contact with a swing that wasn’t a popup? He has caught more air than Shaun White lately.
As the squads enter Wednesday night for the fourth game, the Yankees are clearly helping to bring this drubbing on themselves with near-historic awful hitting. Detroit is definitely doing its part with the starting rotation so sharp that manager Jim Leyland has had the option of returning to old-style pitching. By that it is meant that he can leave his starters in for almost as long as he wants and not be forced into too much situational pitching out of the bullpen where he brings in one guy for a lefty and another guy for a righty. Leyland hasn’t had to use six guys out of the bullpen every day, unlike Girardi, who before it’s over might have to activate Jeter all over again to throw an inning or so while on crutches.
The Tigers are playing better all-around games than the Yankees and deserve to be up 3-0, even though they are not pounding the ball by any means, either. They are scoring what they need to get by. Tuesday, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who was still 1-for-3, hit into a double play with the bases loaded and one out. He could have made life much easier for Verlander. Instead, Detroit is not being greedy stockpiling runs, just scoring enough of them to keep putting up Ws.
New York is mathematically still alive, but hardly looks like a team capable of pulling off four straight wins to win this series. There was no Verlander-CC Sabathia pitching match-up Tuesday. Sabathia is being counted on to win the big one for the Yankees Wednesday, but even if he takes his own turn at being unhittable, it is probably too late for the Yanks.
It may take the Yankees as long to recover from this hitting funk as it does for Jeter’s ankle.