In five of their first seven playoff games, the Yankees failed to score more than three runs. It’s a shocking number considering a) it’s the Yankees, b) not many teams advance in the postseason while doing that, and c) it’s the Yankees. Down 2-0 and facing Justin Verlander, things didn’t look much better. They weren’t.
Justin Verlander went deep as usual, throwing 132 pitches and lasting 8.1 innings, giving up three hits, one run, and walking none. Less usual, he only struck out three batters, a number he only hit twice during the regular season, and he gave up a home run to Derek Jeter’s replacement, Eduardo Nunez, in the top of the ninth.
But even with the Tigers struggling to score runs, they were able to hold on. After Delmon Young’s fourth inning home run followed by a run driven in by Miguel Cabrera in the fifth, the two teams stayed tighter than a pickle lid in the summer (that’s a down home phrase, right?), staying locked up until the ninth inning.
After Verlander exited with a 2-1 lead, Jim Leyland called on Phil Coke, fresh off a two-inning save in Game 2, and possessor of six career regular season saves, to finish this one off. He got into trouble, giving up two hits, but got playoff wunderkind Raul Ibanez to strike out to end it. Who said you needed a proven closer in the playoffs?
The Yankees, now down 3-0 and already missing the steely blue eyes of Derek Jeter, must now also handle the loss of Phil Hughes. After three shutout innings to start the game, Hughes gave up the home run to Young followed by a walk before exiting with either a stiff back or a more serious issue that will require him to be out for six months. Regardless, it’s looking like the Yankees will need to call on another arm as they hope to come back from 3-0.
CC Sabathia will start game four giving the Yankees a solid chance to at least put a win on the board, but it’s hard to imagine them escaping this series with a victory. Especially with Justin Verlander waiting just around the corner should he be needed.