All good things must come to end, and the 2011 season came to an end for the Yankees on Thursday night. Johnny Wholestaff did his best to keep the Yankees in the game after Ivan Nova left with forearm tightness, but at the end of the day, the team couldn’t overcome numerous squandered opportunities on offense. The Tigers won 3-2, advancing to the ALCS.
Pitching, Pitching, And More Pitching
The interweb was up in arms over Joe Girardi’s micromanaging following Nova’s quick exit, which involved the use of six different relievers to cover the final seven innings. The thing that no one seems to want to acknowledge is that it worked. Was it annoying? Hell yes. But it worked. After Nova allowed three hits – all for extra bases, including back-to-back homers by Don Kelly and Delmon Young – and two runs in his two innings of work, the sextet of Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera combined to allow just one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings. They struck out ten.
I saw plenty of fans and media members saying that Girardi was managing out of desperation, well guess what? It was a desperate situation. Starter went two innings (and put the team in a two-run hole before they even came to bat) before getting hurt in a win or go home game. How dare the manager express some urgency! It wasn’t a fun process to sit through, but given the circumstances, I thought Girardi (and the pitchers themselves, don’t forget those guys) did about as good a job as possible.
Story of the ALDS: Blown Chances
The story of the Yankees ALDS defeat will focus squarely on their 4-5-6 hitters, and rightfully so. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher went a combined 9-for-55 (.164) with seven walks and one hit-by-pitch (.266 OBP) in the five-game series, and their inability to put the ball in play in a bases loaded, one out situation in the bottom of the seven essentially sealed the Yankees fate (in fairness, Tex did walk to force in a run). A-Rod and Swisher both struck out feebly against a struggling Joaquin Benoit to kill the rally.
Earlier in the game, the Yankees had the bases loaded with one out against Doug Fister in the fourth, but Russell Martin and Brett Gardner couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield. Martin popped up to first, Gardner to third. Fister retired seven of the first eight men he faced, but once the lineup turned over, he allowed five of eight hitters to reach base and I thought the at-bats were noticeably better and the contact noticeably harder. The Yankees scored zero runs until Robinson Cano’s fifth inning solo homer, though.
New York outscored Detroit 28-17 in the five games, but the distribution of runs was the issue in the five-game series. The Yankees won both of their games by six runs or more, and lost the three games by four runs combined. They went 2-for-9 with men in scoring position and left eleven men on base Thursday, and the two hits didn’t even score runs. The Tigers went 1-for-9 with men in scoring position and stranded just six thanks to the stellar bullpen work, but the two first inning solo homers gave them a lead they’d never surrender.
The bases loaded situation in the seventh was the Yankees last real gasp at a comeback, but Derek Jeter just narrowly missed a go-ahead two run homer in the bottom of the eighth. It looked like Don Kelly caught it right at the top of the wall in right from where I was sitting, but I haven’t seen the replay so don’t take my word for it. Another foot or three, and this is a very different recap.
In what was almost certainly his final game as a Yankee, Jorge Posada with 2-for-4 to raise his ALDS batting line to .329/.579/.571 in the five games. After a brutally ineffective regular season, Posada was far and away the team’s best hitter against the Tigers. Gardner went 2-for-4 on Thursday to raise his ALDS batting line to .412/.444/.471. Safe to say he was their second best hitter. Curtis Granderson went 1-for-4 with a walk, bringing his ALDS batting line to .260/.375/.550. That’s pretty damn close to his .262/.364/.552 regular season performance. Cano’s solo homer and a single later in the game raised his ALDS batting line to .318/.375/.682.
Very nice job by Soriano out of the bullpen this series. He retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced, but unfortunately the one was Young’s game-winning homer in Game Three. Boone faced eight batters in the series, allowed one ground ball single, and struck out six. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera retired all eleven men they faced in the series, and didn’t allow a single ball out of the infield. The pitching staff wasn’t the problem here, the guys combined for a 3.27 ERA with 47 strikeouts and just 36 hits allowed in 44 innings during the five-game set.
WPA Graph & Box Score
Unfortunately, a lot of Yankees-less nights are next. The four-and-a-half month offseason officially begins today, and the Yankees have to deal with Brian Cashman’s expiring contract before anything else takes place.