The New York Yankees aren’t going to make it out of Detroit. Not without their championship dreams being shattered, anyway.
The Yankees head to Detroit’s Comerica Park down 2-0 in the ALCS against the surging Detroit Tigers. They’ll try to begin a big series comeback in Game 3 on Tuesday, but at this point it may already be too late.
Really, it all comes down to the Tigers’ starting pitching vastly outperforming the Yankees’ hitters.
Let’s take a look at the two sides.
The Tigers’ starters have been absolutely brilliant thus far in the postseason, and that brilliance isn’t likely to stop now that Detroit is moving to Comerica Park.
Let’s start with Justin Verlander, Detroit’s Game 3 starter and perhaps baseball’s best all-around pitcher.
To say that Verlander has pitched well to this point in the playoffs would be a stupendous understatement. Verlander has been utterly dominant, going 2-0 in two postseason starts against the Athletics and posting an ERA of just 0.56.
Verlander pitched in 17 innings against Oakland and allowed just one run and seven hits while striking out a whopping 22 batters.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently spoke about Verlander’s Game 5 performance in Oakland (in which Verlander pitched a complete-game shutout), saying (per John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press):
That's as good of a pitching performance as I've ever had pitched for me. I thought it was unbelievable.
But though Verlander is given the most attention, he isn’t the only Tigers starter that’s been lights out in the playoffs. In fact, pretty much every Detroit starter has looked great thus far.
According to Isportsweb.com’s Joe White, the Tigers’ starters haven’t surrendered a run in 22.1 innings, the longest postseason streak since the Athletics did it for 29 straight innings in 1974.
In fact, the last earned run given up by a Detroit starter was over four games ago in Game 3 of the Athletics series. Overall, the starters have given up just five earned runs in 48 innings.
Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry said it best, telling reporters (per ESPN.com’s Christina Kahrl):
We know we have a pretty great pitching staff. A lot of people don’t talk about them as much as they should, they stop at [Verlander], but we have a bunch of guys behind him that throw the ball really well and that other teams don’t want to face.
Baseball is a fickle sport and maybe the Tigers’ pitching comes down to earth in Detroit. Maybe, but it’s not likely. They’ve been too good for that.
This is the biggest point of concern for the Yankees heading into Detroit. Forget about hitting the Tigers—the Yankees haven’t been able to hit anyone.
Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin have gone a combined 17-133 with just six extra-base hits thus far in the playoffs (per Isportsweb.com’s Joe White). That’s a batting average of just .128. And that’s coming from some of the Yankees’ biggest bats.
When asked about the poor hitting, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the following (per Mark Feinsand of New York Daily News):
We know what they are doing to us; we have to make adjustments. They are not going to put it on a tee for us. We know that. We are more than capable of scoring runs, and have done it a number of times this year. We have to make adjustments.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for New York, the Yankees lost captain Derek Jeter to a broken ankle in their Game 1 loss to the Tigers. Not only is Jeter the emotional leader of the Yankees, he also was one of their best offensive weapons in the playoffs.
Prior to the injury, Jeter was hitting .333 and delivered two extra base hits and four runs for New York.
Outfielder Nick Swisher simply said of Jeter’s injury (per the Associated Press), "It's kind of crushing."
Replacement shortstop Jayson Nix is doing his best to fill in for Jeter, but it’s hard to imagine that he can replicate Jeter’s production. That gives the Yankees even fewer reliable bats to turn to as they head for Detroit.
This is baseball, which means the Yankees’ bats could switch from cold to hot at a moment’s notice. The combination of their current terrible hitting and the Tigers’ incredible pitching puts New York up against quite a wall.
Knowing all of this, you just can't expect New York to go on the road and take at least two out of three games from the Tigers, who are one of the few teams that has played well at home in these playoffs (they’re 2-0).
Again, the Yankees face quite the wall as they head into Game 3, and it’s not a wall they’re likely to climb before they leave Detroit.