(I feel ya, guys. Courtesy of the AP)
Justin Verlander is a great pitcher 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. The Yankee hitters are beyond terrible right now. On paper this was a decidedly one-sided matchup going into last night's game, and that's what scared me. The Yankees were dying to score some runs, anyway, anyhow, and they had to face the pitcher who's hardest to score them against. He wasn't even at his best, like he was in Game 5 of the ALDS when he closed out Oakland, but he was plenty good enough to beat this team and put them on the brink. Valiant effort by the relief corps backing up an early-exiting Phil Hughes, but an effort that was once again in vain. The fat lady isn't singing quite yet on the 2012 New York Yankees, but that bitch sure is humming loud.
- It wasn't exactly as I predicted it, but I liked the lineup Joe put in last night. Gardner and Ichiro 1-2 was just the type of off-the-radar change the top of the order needed; as bad as he's been I still liked Cano in the cleanup spot; and even though I think Swish has had a way better collection of at-bats than C-Grand, Curtis and his power against a fastball pitcher in the 8-hole was appropriate.
- And don't even ask if Chavez for A-Rod was the right move. That was a no-brainer. The Yankees might as well get started putting a trade package together for Chase Headley right now so they can move Alex to the right-handed portion of next year's DH platoon.
- Continuing the A-Rod talk, my dad called me up on his way home from work last night and told me there was all kinds of talk on Kay and Francesa's shows about the Yankees gearing up to trade Alex Rodriguez. Is that a joke??? That had to be them trolling for crazy calls, right? There's NO CHANCE IN HELL that the Yankees are trading Alex Rodriguez for the simple fact that NO GM IN HIS RIGHT MIND WOULD FUCKING TAKE THAT CONTRACT!!!!!!
- Alex Rodriguez is going to be a Yankee until 2017 one way or another, everybody. Deal with it, accept it, and move on.
- I had no reason to expect it, but I really wanted something big early last night. I wanted 2 runs in the 1st, another in the 2nd, something dramatic to give these guys some emotion and adrenaline to feed off of.
- Can Cal Ripken calm the fuck down with his gigantic winter coat in the pregame?? Dude, it was low-to-mid 50s in Detroit last night; no need to dress like you're traveling to Ozymandias' Antarctic retreat.
- Quick 1st inning for Verlander, and true to Tiger pitcher form he was pounding the 3 lefties low and away with fastballs to get ahead in the count.
- Why the hell is TBS STILL insisting that Phil Hughes wants to get to 2 strikes because he's a good 2-strike pitcher?? He's not! He's one of the worst! Smoltz, you're a stat guy. You should be all over this.
- A really bad ball call on an 0-2 slutter prevented Hughes from getting out of the 1st on less than 10 pitches, and that's unfortunate. Not a huge deal with a well-rested 'pen behind him, but you still want to see Hughes go at least 7 in a perfect world and he's a guy who can tire quickly when he has to throw a lot of pitches.
- Nothing to show for it, but nice AB by Ibanez against Verlander in the 2nd. Didn't chase on pitches off the corner or down in the zone, fouled off close pitches, and made Verlander work. That's why he's hitting in the middle of the order right now.
- 6 up, 6 down on only 20 pitches was not the start the Yankee O was looking for, though. That basically set Verlander up for a CG.
- Solid 2nd inning from Hughes. He threw 3 different pitches well and got outs on all of them. Good sign.
- Ron Darling on Eduardo Nunez in the top of the 3rd- "he's still working on his defense." Way to put it as delicately as possible, Ron. Between that and the idiotic insinuation that Cabrera should be the MVP because of the Triple Crown, you weren't making me feel good for liking you.
- Phil Hughes had Austin Jackson 0-2 in the bottom of the 3rd and gave up a single to right on a 2-2 pitch.
- Phil Hughes had Miguel Cabrera 0-2 in the same inning and eventually gave up a walk before BABIP lucking his way out of the inning on a Prince Fielder lineout. I guess what I'm saying is, NO, John Smoltz! Phil Hughes does NOT want to get to 2 strikes!
- 2 good ABs against Verlander by Brett Gardner and Ichiro in the top of the 4th. They were patient, didn't chase fastballs off the corner, and fouled off close pitches. It was the most competent a Yankee hitter had looked all night.
- Don't discount Cano continuing his shittastic streak, but the killer at-bat in that inning was Teix's. Got a hittable fastball in a fastball count and fucking fouled it out to the fatass third baseman who still managed to make the catch running over from the shift with a runner on base. Guh!
- Hughes had Delmon Young 0-2 in the 4th. Young fouled off the next pitch, then hit a hanging slider for a HR and a 1-0 Detroit lead.
- Hughes threw another hanging 0-2 slider to Jhonny Peralta 2 batters later and something was off. He reacted funny, shook his arm and body out, and it looked like some kind of elbow injury. His night was over after just 3+ innings and 61 pitches, and it was David Phelps cold off the bench.
- He looked a little rusty to start, and put another runner on to make it interesting, but Phelps did a good job in holding the Tigers to just the 1 in the inning. If the Yankees could get something going offensively, that inning could turn out to be a turning point.
- 5th inning and the Yankee lefty hitters STILL weren't adjusting to the Tigers' approach of pitching away. Reaching outside in hitters' counts and swinging themselves into easy outs against Verlander. WHOSE FAULT IS THIS???
- I thought Verlander would try to change speeds a little earlier to keep his fastball fresh for the late innings when he lost command, but he threw the fastball early, often, and for strikes. He had the Yankees way off balance by the time he started mixing in the curve in the 5th.
- Eric Chavez, the guy for whom I've been ragging on TBS for constantly forgetting to mention his 6 Gold Gloves, got absolutely abused by a Quintin Berry grounder to lead off the bottom of the 5th. That was bad.
- What was worse was Phelps getting completely sonned by Cabrera in the next at-bat. Phelps didn't really throw any bad pitches, it was just a case of Cabrera being a much better hitter than Phelps is a pitcher. RBI double to right-center, 2-0 Tigers.
- I felt horrible thinking it, but the situation with Clay Rapada in the 5th- down 2-0, 2 on, 1 out- was probably the season right there. He managed to be a part of getting out of it, but that's how desperate things have gotten with this team.
- Helluva play by Nunez on that grounder up the middle by Dirks to get the second out in the 5th. Sure, he didn't catch the ball clean, which is so Nunez, but that's a ball that Jeter probably doesn't even get to.
- An average Tigers hitter gets down 0-2 in a count and comes back to hit a home run. The Yankees' leading HR hitter gets ahead 3-0 and pops out to third on a 3-1 pitch down the pipe. That tells you everything you need to know. Fucking motherfuck.
- Verlander with another easy-peasy 1-2-3 in the 6th. He was at 81 pitches. Not good.
- I don't know if leaving Cody Eppley in to start the bottom of the 6th was a smart idea by Joe, I was less sure of it after he put 2 on with only 1 out, and even less sure when Boone Logan gave up a single to load the bases and then was left in to face Cabrera.
- But somehow, the hotshot grounder Cabrera hit found Chavez's glove and he turned a 5-4-3 double play to end the frame and keep it a 2-run game. Whew!!
- Truth be told, Verlander really wasn't that great last night. His fastball command was spotty at best all night, and he threw a couple of hanging sliders that should have been crushed. The Yankee batters just missed them.
- I know it's minutia but I have to say this. What's the deal with Jim Leyland tying his hoodie laces? What's that about?? To keep the hoodie from falling off his old man body?? Jimmy boy, let them shits hang, dude.
- Ichiro led off the 7th with a single, his second of the team's 2 hits up to that point, but got stranded there by the 3-4-5 hitters.
- That right there shows just how great Verlander is, even when he's not great. Verlander would probably be the first to tell you his command wasn't all that sharp last night, but he still didn't walk a batter and held the Yankees to just 2 baserunners (on groundball singles) through 8 innings.
- Good clean 7th inning for Boone Logan. Feels like it's been forever since I've said that.
- Having a decent at-bat end in a tough groundout to third is bad enough for Russell Martin. Jamming his thumb on the swing was just salt in the wound.
- Verlander dialing it up to 97-98 on the reg in the 7th and 8th innings. Just daring the Yankee hitters to do something with the fastball and they couldn't do a fucking thing with it.
- Gardner making the great sliding play look easy in the 8th. No, Ron, there's no doubt that he's the best outfielder on the team. He's better than Granderson on his worst day.
- No D-Rob in the 8th inning again!! 2 outs in the inning, 2-run game, and Joe goes to Joba. I don't get it, I really don't.
- He takes a lot of crap from everybody, but he does have the ability to do some big things, and Eduardo Nunez's at-bat against Verlander in the 9th was incredible. He fought off pitches, worked Verlander hard when he was tired, and finally got a pitch he could square up to bring the Yanks within 1.
- And after 2 outs, Teix and Cano followed up with great at-bats against Phil Coke to start his night. About fucking time Robbie went the other way.
- He might not be capable of playing every day at a high level, but Raul Ibanez is still a professional hitter. And he had another professional at-bat against Coke to end the game. Credit to him for working Coke, and credit to Coke for throwing that 3-2 slider.
- Ibanez has handled the bat well all series. Left-handed pitcher or right-handed, I wanted him at the plate in that situation.
- If there's anything positive to take from this game, it's that at least there were a lot of better ABs put together against Verlander, and even a few against Coke in the 9th. The Yankee hitters looked like they finally started to adapt to Detroit's approach. That's something, I guess.
- Well here we are. Nothing to do now but win 4 in a row. CC on the hill tonight gives them the best chance to start that, so we'll see if they can scratch a few runs together against Scherzer and make this thing last another day.
- Ichiro: 2-4, 1 K. The team had 2 hits in the first 8 innings of the game, and Ichiro had both of them.
- Nunez: 1-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI. And a great defensive play! Guess that makes Eduardo the player of the game for the Yankees, huh? And that tells you everything you need to know about this game.
- Cano: 1-4, 1 K, 2 LOB. His only productive at-bat came with too little time left for his team to do anything, and he looked pretty helpless against Verlander. A series like this ain't going to get Robbie all the money Scott Boras will eventually try to convince teams he's worth.
- Granderson: 0-3, 1 K. Can't hit righties, can't hit lefties, can't get good jumps on balls, and can't cover ground in the outfield. Tell me why people want this guy back again?
- Joe: Still don't understand how Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley can be allowed to pitch in situations that result in runners being put on base and runs being scored, and David Robertson and Rafael Soriano do not ever enter the game.
Now it really is do-or-die time tonight for the Bombers. They've got their best on the mound against Max Scherzer. Need a win to keep the season going, it's that simple.