The New York Yankees dropped Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS in disastrous fashion.
The Bombers squandered a miraculous comeback in the ninth inning, burned through almost their entire bullpen in a twelve inning contest and lost Derek Jeter for the remainder of the postseason to a fractured ankle.
The Yankees offense was dormant for the vast majority of the night, as Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano continued their postseason floundering. Needless to say, the Yankees have their work cut out for them in Game 2.
However, as bleak as the Bombers outlook was after the conclusion of Game 1, they still have a tremendous opportunity to advance to the World Series.
There are 26 other ball clubs in the league that would kill to be where the Yankees are right now. Let's take a look at three things that must happen for the Yanks to even up the series in Game 2.
Hiroki Kuroda Must Be Lights Out
Despite throwing a career-high in innings pitched this season, along with 105 pitches in his last outing against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees will start Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest in Game 2.
Although Kuroda has been one of the Bombers' best pitchers throughout the season, he has never started a game on short rest in his career. With that, the stats are not exactly in his favor.
From 2004 through 2011, there have been 23 starts on short rest in the playoffs. The combined record is 9-14, with a 4.86 ERA. In the same time period, only two pitchers have gone seven innings or more on short rest (CC Sabathia in 2009, Tim Hudson in 2005.)
The Yankees need nothing short of a miraculous, perhaps even a heroic performance from Kuroda in Game 2.
With a tired bullpen, a shorthanded, slumping lineup and a deflated fan base, the Bombers are already facing a tremendous amount of adversity.
The team has been the beneficiary of stellar starting pitching throughout the playoffs, and will need more of the same this afternoon if they want to avoid leaving New York down two games.
The Bats Must Come Alive
The Yankees' offense was nothing short of pathetic in Game 1. Despite loading the bases three times, the Bombers were unable to score a run before a pair of ninth inning homers brought them back to life.
Alex Rodriguez has become an automatic out, and Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and even Robinson Cano are not far behind.
The Yankees need to find a way to score runs today. Whether that's by working walks and playing small ball with bunts and sacrifice flies, or resurgence from the middle of the order, the Bombers will not be able to rely on their pitching to keep them close.
It's about time Alex Rodriguez starts earning his $29 million this season, Nick Swisher stops swinging for the fences on every pitch, and Curtis Granderson makes some sort of contact with the ball.
Without Derek Jeter in the lineup, the Yanks need their veterans to step up and produce. If that production never comes, then this series was over before it started.
Defense Must Be Sound
Nick Swisher cost the Yankees the game with some pathetic efforts on balls hit to right field in Game 1.
In the sixth inning, Swisher neglected to dive at a ball that ultimately allowed Tigers third basemen Miguel Cabrera to score from second base on a bloop single that landed about three feet in front of him.
In the 12th inning, Swisher misplayed a low-flying ball hit in his direction and allowed it to go all the way to the wall. Miguel Cabrera scored again from second base, and the Yankees wound up losing the game by a run.
The Bombers have enough on their plates heading into Game 2. The offense has been nearly invisible, the pitching staff is tired from no off-days and Justin Verlander is looming in Game 3.
The Yankees have to win this game to stop the bleeding. They cannot beat themselves in the field again this afternoon.
Game 2 is not a must win for the Yankees, but it's about as close as one could get.
With Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch Game 3 at Comerica Park on normal rest, the Yanks cannot afford to drop the first two-games in this series.
In order to compete with the Tigers, the middle of the Yankees' batting order must come to play. Without Derek Jeter, this team can no longer sustain almost no production from the likes of A-Rod, Swisher, Granderson and Cano.
If the Yankees' bats have a miraculous resurgence, this team has as good a chance as any to win a World Series.