ALDS Game 2: Tigers at Yankees: October 2, 2011
In the ninth inning, when it got dark and started to rain around the time the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate for the first time, I started writing metaphorical ledes for this story. Like “It was sunny all day for the Detroit Tigers… until it wasn’t.”
But, unfortunately, the rest of the ninth inning did not pan out the way I might have wanted. I feel sorry for the people who left early, because they missed the best part of the game, a thrilling ninth, even if the Yankees did fall short.
The day began, as I mentioned, not raining. It was partly sunny and quite windy in the Bronx today. When we took our seats for the first pitch the temperature was 61 degrees, but a stiff wind was blowing straight in from center field.
The wind was evident in the top of the first, when Brett Gardner moved to catch a high fly ball and ended up running almost all the way to the infield to get it. Not home run weather, despite the predictions, which were based on the facts that Max Scherzer was in the top three in home runs allowed this year and the Yankees were the top home-run hitting team. The only kind of homer that would go out with the wind like that would be a low line drive.
Unfortunately, that’s what Miguel Cabrera hit in the top of the first. And unfortunately, there was a man on. Another “Yankee Stadium” homer that just cleared the short porch wall inside the foul pole. I’m not even sure the pitch was a strike.
That was pretty much all the action for a while. Scherzer no-hit the Yankees through five complete innings. After giving up the two-run Cabrera shot in the first, Freddy Garcia largely matched him.
Then in the sixth, the Tigers opened the inning with a bounding ball up the middle that Freddy Garcia slowed down, then Jeter got it and rushed his throw, low in the dirt, which Teixeira was unable to dig out. Thus, Austin Jackson reached, and Magglio Ordonez followed with a hit-and-run single while Jackson went to third. Freddy struck out Delmon Young, but then gave up two singles, and two runs, and left the game on the losing end. Boone Logan came in, and despite a balk, struck out the next two batters to quash any further rally. But two more runsa, unearned, had been scored. 4-0 Yankees.
In the Yankees’ half of the sixth, they had some offense, too… Cano broke up the no hitter with a single. That’s it. The crowd roared like he’d hit a home run. But he didn’t.
Corey Wade pitched two scoreless innings but the Yankees were only able to cut the Tigers’ 4-0 lead by one run. They put the first two men on in the seventh (Swisher walked, Jorge singled), but that ended Scherzer’s day, and Joaquin Benoit came in. All they got off Benoit was a Granderson solo homer in the eighth.
Luis Ayala gave that run back in the ninth to make it 5-1 going into the bottom of the inning. Jose Valverde, the Tigers closer, took the mound in the non-save situation, but somehow it felt as tight as any save.
Well, especially when the first man he faced, Nick Swisher, hit a solo shot to make it 5-2. Next up was Jorge Posada, who tripled.
Yes, Jorge tripled. Remember that big triple that Joe Girardi hit in the World Series back when he was a Yankee? Joe ran faster, though. In his postgame press conference, Girardi was asked for his thoughts about Posada getting a triple there. “Well, it’s certainly unusual,” Girardi said.
This was one of the loudest, most intense ninth innings I’ve been through at the new Stadium. Swisher’s shot really brought people to life, and then Posada’s triple had the place jumping. It really was too bad that thanks to two previous rain showers during the game, neither of which stopped play for more than a few minutes while some extra drying agent was sprinkled on the field, 40% of the fans had left. (And at least 10% never made it there, thanks to the rescheduled game.)
Every pitch that wasn’t a strike was cheered raucously. Martin worked a walk. With the score 5-2, that meant the man coming to the plate represented the tying run. It was Andruw Jones. The inning before, Girardi had pinch hit for Gardner with Eric Chavez. As he said in his postgame comments about the move: “I was hoping he would pop one.” Then Jones went in to play left and keep that spot in the batting order.
I was hoping he would “pop one” here. But he ended up hitting a long fly ball that brought Posada in easily. 5-3 Tigers, with a man on and the tying run coming to the plate again, this time Jeter.
We all well know that Jeter can’t be the hero every time, every day. And he wasn’t. Although he had a fairly long at bat, with much chanting and cheering, he struck out. That brought up Granderson, whose appearance prompted many chants of “MVP!”
Granderson worked the count to 2-2, and then popped up. Except Alex Avila slipped on the wet on deck circle–did I mention it had started to rain AGAIN?–and couldn’t get to it. With renewed life, Granderson worked a walk. Phil Coke was warming up in the Tigers bullpen. And that brought Robinson Cano to the plate. Cano, who broke up the no hitter, and who yesterday had the big blow with the grand slam. On XM Radio this morning the commentators were opining that Cano wouldn’t see another good pitch to hit all month.
A home run would have meant a walk-off win, and pie. But Robbie grounded into a force play and the game was over. To win in the postseason you have to be lucky as well as good. If the Yankees end up losing the series, we’ll think back on this game and how Scherzer shut down one of the toughest lineups in baseball, and how the breaks just didn’t go our way.
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