By Ernie Palladino
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Go ahead. Admit it. It’s OK.
You knew it was going to end like this, the Yanks and their life-support offense betrayed by ace CC Sabathia when they needed him most.
The end came quietly in an 8-1 loss in Comerica, the Yankees’ total offensive production representing just their sixth run in the ALCS.
You don’t win many American League pennants with that kind of production. In fact, you don’t win many ballgames at all. But at least until a point on Thursday afternoon, at least their pitchers had held up. Every game was a dogfight.
Not this one, though. Sabathia lasted just 3 2/3 innings after pitching eight innings or better his last five starts, going back to Sept. 21 against Oakland. Instead of the dominant Sabathia, Yankees loyalists saw a pitcher undermined by two errors in the third by one of the most sure-handed first basemen in the league in Mark Teixeira, and then by the Tigers’ long ball in in a four-run fourth.
It seemed inevitable, the way the Yanks have gone, that Sabathia would wind this up by joining Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and a host of others in the newly-formed Pinstripes Hall of Liabilities.
It’s really not fair to blame Sabathia for most of this, however. As soon as the Tigers went up 2-0 in the third, that single run could just as easily have had a zero to the left of it. That’s how badly the Yankees’ offense went. Even if Sabathia had held the Tigers right there, one got the feeling the game was over.
Even if it wasn’t, there was no reason to believe they’d have given Andy Pettitte any kind of support in Game 5. This series, and the Yankees’ postseason, was doomed from the start. The fact that they made Max Scherzer look like Justin Verlander on one of his dominant days was simply an added irritant.
Ah, Scherzer. He no-hit them for five innings, baffling a hopelessly lost lineup by working the strike zone up, down, in and out with a variety of speeds and squiggles. Ten Yankees struck out over his 5 2/3 innings, and there’s no telling what further embarrassment he might have caused had Jim Leyland not pulled him 98 pitches through a 100-pitch limit after he gave up the Yankees’ lone run.
If the Yanks had any hopes of a comeback, Derek Lowe squashed them in the seventh when he allowed Austin Jackson’s homer on the second pitch of his one-inning evening.
All was lost by then, anyway. And when former Yankee reliever Phil Coke came in to finish the Tigers’ royal coronation in four acts, he sent them into the World Series in fine style. The Yanks raised nary a protest as Teixeira lined softly to short and A-Rod grounded out easily to short.
Jayson Nix finished it with a harmless popup to Prince Fielder to send the Yankees into the players’ hunting and fishing season, and the front office into an offseason that is sure to be filled with discussions on the contractual dispositions of Rodriguez and Swisher and the progress of Derek Jeter’s ankle.
It was all expected. The Yanks were a dead team, and dead teams rarely rise again. It’s only once every few decades that a 2004 Red Sox squad comes around to win four straight after falling into a 3-0 series hole. But there was a difference between this team and that.
The Red Sox had shown life. They had scored eight runs in that 19-8 Game 3 shellacking. That team hit.
The Yankees didn’t. Not a lick, no matter what Joe Girardi tried.
So ends the Yankees season. All those regular-season homers, a franchise-high 245, mean nothing now. It works that way when a team drops dead.
It’s as if the regular season never happened.
Were you convinced the Yankees would fall short in Game 4? Let us know in the comments below…