Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 ALCS Game 2 Thoughts & Afterthoughts: DET 3 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

As big a loss as Derek Jeter's broken ankle was on Saturday night, it didn't have to automatically signal the end for the 2012 New York Yankees.  There is still a lot of talent left on this team, and there is still a starting pitching staff that's throwing the ball as well as they have all year.  Pitching always wins in the postseason, and as long as you can get good pitching you have a chance.  Jeter's injury could have been just the wake up call that the rest of the scuffling offense needed, something for them to build from and pull motivation from and to use as a jumping off point for a turnaround.

Instead, it looks like the moment Jeter broke his ankle in Game 1 was the beginning of the end for the Yankees this season.  They came out yesterday against a perfectly average pitcher in Anibal Sanchez and looked absolutely helpless against him.  There was no spark, no energy from an out-on-their-feet offense, and another brilliant starting pitching performance, this one by Hiroki Kuroda, was wasted by their inability to do anything even remotely productive.  They failed to plate a single run, to even mount a single real scoring chance, and every boo they got yesterday from the Yankee Stadium crowd was well-deserved.

Down to 2-0 and heading to Detroit to face the best pitcher in baseball on Tuesday night.  The lights are slowly being turned out on the Yankees, and it doesn't look like anybody is in a rush to flip the switch.

- Ron Darling calling out Robinson Cano for his postseason no-show in the TBS pregame intro instead of piling on A-Rod or reminiscing about Jeter.  Ron Darling  >>>>>>>>> Cal Ripken.

- Very nice start for Kuroda in the top of the 1st.  Fastball was good down in the zone and the movement on his slider looked very good.  Not too many guys out there these days who strike Miguel Cabrera out on 3 pitches.

- Perfect example of Yankee fans' stupidity is the Robinson Cano situation.  Entering last night's game 2-28 in the playoffs and 0- for his last 22 is just pathetically awful and more deserving of the boos that A-Rod and Swish have been getting.

- Teix, on the other hand, has looked good all postseason.  I was really worried about his timing at the plate but he's looked like he's seeing the ball well since the time he got back, evidenced by his count work and walks that he's drawn.

- 3-24 with RISP and 2 outs is ridiculous, and there has to be some kind of bad luck involved in numbers that bad.  For example, Anibal Sanchez twirling around and catching a Russell Martin comeback behind his back for the final out of the 1st inning.

- Kuroda with Ks on 5 of the first 6 batters he faced.  His slider was really sharp, and he also looked like he was getting some great late left-to-right movement on his fastball.

- One guy I won't get on as hard as the other offensive chokers is Nick Swisher.  He's had good at-bats, he's getting the ball in the air, and he's made a lot of solid contact.  Case in point, his gift single/error in the 2nd.  That ball has hit on the screws, but right at Omar Infante.  A little luck here and there and we aren't talking about Swish struggling.

- I get that the in-game interview is the cool new thing to do in TV sports coverage, but did Doug Fister really need to get the entire top of the 4th to an on-air interview while the FUCKING GAME WAS GOING ON?!?!  Call the goddamn game!

- The Tigers' failure to execute a pop up in foul territory essentially gave the Yankees a 4th out in the bottom of the 4th, which Raul Ibanez used to his advantage by leading off with a single.

- But he quickly killed it by getting caught stealing second.  It looked like it was supposed to be a hit-and-run with Russell Martin, but even that play is a little too aggressive with Ibanez running.  If Martin misses like he did, Ibanez is dead to rights at second.  Basically giving back a free out to the defense.

- Slick play to his right by Cano to end the 5th for an absolutely overwhelming Kuroda.  He'll still make a maddening error every now and then, but that play is Exhibit A for why Cano is the best second baseman in baseball.

- To the chick in the bleachers with the "What Would Jeter Do?" sign- he wouldn't wear eyeblack ever, especially if he wasn't actually playing in the game, and he wouldn't do something to draw unnecessary attention to himself.  Put the fucking sign down.

- 2 plate appearances, 2 swinging strikeouts at belt-high hanging sliders for Curtis Granderson.

- As pointed out by John Smoltz, Sanchez had 4 strikeouts in the game at that point, and all 4 of them were A-Rod and C-Grand.  At this point there's almost nothing left to do but just laugh at how bad they suck.

- Great point by Ron Darling about the Detroit pitching strategy of throwing offspeed stuff in fastball counts being effective against the Yankees.  It was pitching to the failure of the Yankees to recognize pitches and it was smart.

- He lost his perfect game and no-hitter on a bullshit grounder away from the shift, but Kuroda had no issues working out of the stretch for the first time.  Slider command stayed spot-on to the outside corner against righties.  Pinpoint.

- If the crowd wasn't so busy booing A-Rod, maybe they could have actually gotten out of their seats to cheer his 2-2 pitch to Austin Jackson to end the inning.

- One of the worst at-bats I've ever seen from Cano in the bottom of the 6th.  He swung at the first 2 pitches and got behind 0-2 with Ichiro on first base, then when Ichiro had second base stolen on 2-2, Cano swung at another outside fastball and rolled it over for an out.  If he takes that pitch, Ichiro is at second with no outs, could have been advanced to third on Cano's groundout, and had a chance to score on Teix's.

- Leyland showed a lot of respect to Ibanez, intentionally walking him with 2 outs, and it turned out to be a smart move when Martin grounded out to end the inning and keep it a 0-0 game.

- Kuroda finally made a bad pitch, a hanging slider to Berry that turned into a double to lead off the top of the 7th, and it got him into real trouble.  Miguel Cabrera singled to right on the only outside pitch the Yankees have thrown him in the series (why would you throw that pitch???) and it was runners on the corners with nobody outs.

- Kuroda outdueled Prince Fielder in a great at-bat to get a much-needed strikeout, and induced a groundball from Delmon Young that could have ended the inning, but Cano couldn't handle the transfer and never got the throw to first. Berry scored, Detroit led 1-0.

- I don't care if it's just to see if surgery will cut down on his recovery time, there's no way you can convince me that Jeter's ankle injury being called "out of the ordinary" and necessitating him seeing the NFL foot/ankle specialist is a good thing.

- And kudos to Craig Sager for finally delivering a worthwhile midgame report.  Reporting on actual news and delivering valuable information!  Who knew Sages had it in him??

- The C-Grand send for a hit-and-run with Swish in the 7th was a much smarter call if it came from Joe.  Granderson has the speed to steal bases easily, even if he doesn't use it anymore.  Too bad Swish and Nix K'd behind him to strand him at second.

- The final line will say Kuroda pitched 7.2 innings and gave up 3 earned runs, but you can give thanks to umpire Jeff Nelson for that.  He missed a painfully easy call on Robinson Cano's tag out of Omar Infante that should have ended the inning.  In my book, Kuroda only gave up the 1.

- Don't worry about replay, Bud!  Your sport isn't becoming a joke because of it.

- And of course the righty nobody pinch hitting against Boone Logan bloops a single into right to force in the fraudulent run.  Fucking Christ.

- And of course Miguel Cabrera would come through with a second straight hit to right to score an insurance run and make it 3-0.  Double fucking double Christ.

- I know it wasn't totally their fault, but if I'm Boone Logan or Joba Chamberlain, I'm not sitting anywhere near Kuroda in that dugout.  Their inability to make pitches to pick him up muddied his line and lessened the great performance he had.

- Once again, the bullpen hierarchy was completely reversed last night.  I guess I get Clay Rapada for Prince Fielder, but once Fielder walked it was Cody Eppley coming into a bases loaded situation instead of D-Rob or Soriano.

- I repeat, Cody Eppley was brought into a bases loaded, 2 out situation in the 8th inning of a must-win playoff game instead of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.  Good for him for getting out of it, but there's no reason he should in the game over the 2 best relief pitchers in this series with the season on the line.

- As inept as the offense has been for the entire postseason, it was only fitting that they went down with 3 strikeouts in the 9th sandwiched around another Alex Rodriguez slap single.  Perfectly appropriate.

- Why would Hiroki Kuroda want to re-sign with the Yankees for 2013?  This offense doesn't support him at all.  They probably cost him 5-6 wins in the regular season, and cost him another one tonight.

- They've hit him before, but with the way these guys are hitting and the way Justin Verlander has been pitching this postseason, you have to think the Yankees are in big trouble for Game 3 and the rest of this series.

- Joe with probably the most well-spoken comment to date from a manager or player about the need for more instant replay in MLB in his postgame presser. 

- Better find some fucking magic on the plane...

F*ck Yeahs:

- Kuroda: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 11 K.  Deserved so much better than he got yesterday.  Smoltz made the comment that Kuroda should try pitching on short rest more often, and I would have to agree with him based on what I saw.  Kuroda had great stuff all day, didn't seem to lose it at all getting into the later innings and higher pitch counts, and really only "allowed" the 1 earned run early in the game. If yesterday was Kuroda's final game of the season and final game as a Yankee, it was a damn good one.

Oh Nos:

- Swish: 1-3, 2 K, 1 LOB.  Bad.  Couldn't get a hit when he needed one (a par-for-the-course postseason result for Swish), and maybe I'm being too hard on him but I thought Swish should have made that running catch near the foul line wall, fan interference or not.

- Rodriguez: 1-4, 2 K.  Worse.  Didn't get the ball in the air for his one lonely hit, and got rocked to sleep by a couple of 2-strike offspeed pitches over the heart of the plate.

- Granderson: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 SB, 3 K, 1 LOB.  Worser.  The walk was one of the better at-bats I've seen from Granderson this postseason, and all it took was him finally laying off the junk low and away.  Too bad he couldn't do that in his other 3 PA where he fanned.  Got a bad read and bad jump on Quintin Berry's double too.

- Cano: 0-4, 1 LOB.  Worsest.  Just a pathetic effort from Robbie yesterday, in every facet of the game.  He looks like he's just going through the motions at the plate, his baserunning down the first base line looks lazier than usual, and his failure to turn the double play that would have gotten Kuroda out of the 7th unscathed was just unacceptable.

Next Up:

Travel day today before Game 3 on Tuesday.  Hopefully some big changes are made in the lineup for Game 3, I'm talking really drastic.  At this point there's nothing for Joe to lose by doing it, and he's already opened the window of opportunity for benching bigger name players with how he's handled A-Rod.

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