By Steve Silverman
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The New York Yankees as underdogs?
That’s just what Joe Girardi’s team has been transformed into as they prepare for the remainder of the postseason without Derek Jeter.
A broken ankle means the shortstop is done for the year and the Yankees will have to try to win two more rounds in the postseason with slumping superstars manning the key spots in the lineup.
Jeter’s gone. Mariano Rivera has been out with a torn ACL since May 3. Jorge Posada retired at the end of last season. Andy Pettitte is the only member of the Core Four who is still contributing, but that’s after taking a year off and suffering a broken ankle earlier this year.
This is an aging team that appears to be on its last legs.
On top of the injuries, you have the A-Rod situation (using wet newspapers to hit the baseball), the Nick Swisher situation (can’t field or hit) and the incomprehensible Robinson Cano situation (0-for-22).
On the other hand, you have the Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki situations. Ibanez is giving the Yankees miracles on a regular basis and Ichiro has given the Yankees a lift when few expected he was capable of still doing it.
The Yankees had one more miracle last night after looking like a dead team for eight innings. Ichiro with a two-run homer in the ninth and a two-run homer with two outs in the same inning by Ibanez. Those shots gave the Yankees all the momentum a baseball team could want, but they were unable to close the deal.
Too bad Jose Valverde could not stay on the mound for the Tigers.
Detroit is no juggernaut and they are not just going to roll past the Yankees on their own volition. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are legitimate superstars and Justin Verlander is the best starting pitcher in the game, but the Tigers have big problems fielding the ball and the only reason they are even playing postseason baseball is that the Chicago White Sox fell apart in the last two weeks of the season.
The Tigers were three games behind the White Sox in mid-September and looked content to finish out the season and then go on vacation. But the White Sox forgot how to score runs and their rookie pitchers struggled and that opened the door for the Tigers.
But the battered and old Yankees obviously have a very difficult task in front of them over the remainder of this series.
But could the Jeter injury relieve some of the pressure? It is New York and they are the Yankees, but could Girardi give his team the “no one believes you can do it” speech that is usually reserved for every other team but the Yankees?
No Jeter, no Rivera, three mainstays in horrific slumps. That’s the formula for a quick exit.
But there are players on this team like Ibanez, Ichiro and CC Sabathia who are not so willing to go meekly into the night.
There is still some life in the old bones. It’s a matter of finding Detroit’s weaknesses and exploiting them.
It will be much different with Jeter in the dugout, unable to lead the team onto the field. But they have just started a best-of-seven series. There’s some time to right the ship.
Do you think the Yankees are now underdogs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.