"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Where Rubber Hits the Road

Derek Jeter banged the first pitch of the night back up the box for a lead off single. Justin Verlander threw a high fastball, several notches below his best velocity. Jeter was ready. Curtis Granderson saw a few more of the third-tier heaters, and then lashed at a high one out over the plate. It’s rare you see a hitter manage to hit a ball with such authority on a pitch so fast and so elevated in the zone, but Granderson beamed it over Austin Jackson’s head just left of center for a run-scoring triple.

Verlander decided that was enough of the mid-90s junk and loaded the gun for maximum cheese. The look on his face said that Granderson was not scoring. And the look was almost right. He struck out Robinson Cano on fastballs of 98 and 100 mph. Cano was blown away. Arod looked for the same treatment, but saw filthy curves instead. And just when he got used to the bend, Verlander flashed 100 again. Alex fouled the first one back. He snapped the bat on the second, but the dribbler to short scored Granderson and the Yankees led 2-0. Verlander struck out Teixeira to end the first and must have been thinking, “Damn, if I threw my best fastball to Curtis, could he have gotten on top of it like he did?”

CC Sabathia staked to two runs should give Yankee fans a warm and fuzzy feeling. But Sabathia was off from the first batter. The umpire gave nothing on the left-handed batter’s box side of home plate, and Sabathia set up camp there all game. When he was out there, he walked guys. When he came over the plate, the Tigers did a little damage. Sabathia walked the lead off man, Austin Jackson, on a pitch that looked to be strike three. He got a double play on the next batter. He walked the next two hitters, but got out of the inning with the 2-0 lead intact.

Deep breath for everybody. It was just a bumpy start. He’ll settle down. He’ll figure out the umpire. He’ll be good. Before an out was recorded in the third, we had our answer. No, he wouldn’t be good. Unable to throw precise strikes on the ump’s corners, and unable to coax the Tigers to chase his off speed stuff down below the strike zone, Sabathia combined a mix of high and out side balls and hittable fastballs at the belt and over the plate.  The Tigers took their walks when given and took their rips when appropriate.

Brandon Inge, the first batter of the bottom of the third, doubled into the left center gap. CC went up 1-2 on Austin Jackson as he tried to bunt Inge to third, but then CC lost the zone completely and Jackson walked again. CC went up 0-2 on Ramon Santiago, as he too tried to bunt, but could not put him away. Santiago ripped a single into left and Inge scored the Tigers first run. Sabathia got lucky when Miguel Cabrera got out in front of a relatively benign breaking ball and rolled into the third double play in the first three innings. That tied the game, but allowed the Yankees to escape the big inning.

If not for the twin killings, Sabathia might have already been out of the game.

The Yankees chipped at Verlander, but never bothered him. Posada singled in the second but was erased on Martin’s double play. Brett Gardner accidentally had a great bunt to lead off the third, but was erased on Jeter’s double play. Gardner and Jeter tried to work a hit and run, but Jeter was forced to swing at a ball and fouled it off. It was not a bad call. On a 2-1 pitch, Girardi expected a fastball for a strike and didn’t get one. The straight steal might have put Gardner in scoring position and had Jeter sitting on a 3-1 count. But it worked the other way, left the double play in order and Jeter couldn’t resist. Jeter singled to lead off the sixth, but Verlander ate the heart of the order for dinner. Strike out, pop out to left, strike out.

I left out the fifth, in which Verlander struck out the side on 10 pitches. No contact. Just one ball away from an immaculate inning. The score was 2 to 2, but the Tigers must have felt that they were in firm control as long as the two starting pitchers remained in the game. Fans on both sides were just wondering in which inning Sabathia would crack. The big guy had little to nothing and little was late for a bus.

But give the big guy credit. He never did crack. He got hit. He let up runs, but he averted catastrophe each time. And when his gas tank was officially empty, Rafeal Soriano averted it for him. In the fifth, Inge looped a single and scored on a deep double by Ramon Santiago. But that was it for the fifth. Defensive replacement Don Kelly dragged a bunt to lead off the sixth. Jhonny Peralta took his turn with a deep double and made the score 4-2. After a sac bunt, Rafeal Soriano relieved CC and coaxed a pop out and a whiff. The game had no business being close, but there it was.

Let me rephrase, it was close in the sense that two runs is usually considered “close.” But the way Verlander was dealing, two runs did not feel close. He started the seventh with two quick outs and just as he was about to settle Jorge Posada for his tenth strikeout of the game, Cy Young became Cy Twombly. He walked Posada on four straight balls. He plunked Martin. With a full count on Brett Gardner, he got beat. Gardner saw six straight heaters and finally had the timing. He served Verlander’s 96th pitch, a 100 MPH fastball, into left center for a game-tying double.

The game had a fresh anything-can-happen vibe for a few moments, but then Delmon Young dinked one over the right field wall. The Tigers should play in Yankee Stadium. They are the masters of the oppo dink homer in this series. It’s hard to complain about that, considering how many dink homers the Yankees have hit over the years. Also, Miguel Cabrera hit the next one 419 feet and had nada to show for it. Still, it sucks to have the series turn on the dink homer.

The Yankees still had Verlander to contend with in the eighth. Granderson took aim at the right field wall and came up a few feet short. Robbie got jobbed on a high strike for the second out. A-Rod worked a 3-0 count and let loose when Verlander pumped a get-me-over fastball down the middle. The get-me-over fastball with two outs in the eighth? 100 mph. A-Rod took his best swing of the series, but only could foul it off. He did stick around to work a walk, but the human pop out machine follows him in the lineup, so all hope was lost for the inning as soon as Alex dropped the bat.

David Robertson hammered through the eighth without any trouble, so the Yankees were facing a tired closer who couldn’t throw strikes needing one run to tie the game. It just so happened that the closer was the same guy who guaranteed that Detroit was winning games three and four. Jose Valverde threw a lot of leaky fastballs (drifting towards the right handed batters), most of them for balls, and looked ripe for the plucking.

The Yankees didn’t pluck. Nick Swisher saw stars in his eyes and popped up a honey of an 2-0 pitch, right down the pipe. Jorge Posada walked to get the tying run on a base. Russell Martin made a bid for the shorter wall in right and came up a foot short of where Granderson came up short. Brett Gardner walked on four pitches setting the stage for Derek Jeter. Valverde woke up. He reined in his leaking fastball just enough to nail the inside corner a few times. Jeter got a break on a close 1-2 splitter (the first I saw of the inning) but swung through a well placed fastball up and in to end the game.

Tigers 5, Yankees 4. The Tigers lead the best of five ALDS 2-1 and can wrap it up tomorrow night.

Justin Verlander was excellent, throwing eight innings and striking out 11. But the Yankees got to him for four runs and acquitted themselves pretty well against the best pitcher in the league. CC Sabathia was bad and coughed up an early lead. He managed to keep the game close, but his performance was disappointing, and a massive letdown for all the people expecting to see the two best pitchers in the league show their stuff. Losing this game was not destined, but the way CC pitched, it was certainly deserved.

Where do the Yankees go from here? AJ Burnett. That’s as bad as it sounds. But facing elimination, the Yankees have no choice but win. So we have no choice but to root them on. Our best did not measure up to their best, didn’t come close, and that’s a kick in the gut with a steel tipped boot. But the series is not coming down to those guys. It’s coming down to everyone else. And the Yankees have a great everyone else. Get Mariano in a game that matters and show this Valverde clown something about pitching and about class.

C’mon Yankees, winning two in a row is simple as rip, boom, bash, hammer, snap. Get to it.

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Playoffs  Yankees

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email %PRINT_TEXT


1 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:43 am

We'll be there rooting. Just get us back to the Bronx, boys.

2 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:51 am

It's over. I'll root and cheer, but its over.

3 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:51 am

I am confident. Porcello is blah. If Valverde pitches three staight days they will crush him. Get 5 innings and 3 ER from AJ and pat him on the back. And either A-Rod or Teix will HAVE to get a hit, finally!

4 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:52 am

Nothing is written.

5 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:00 am

[3] I want to believe that can happen, but I don't. JDR, I'm a big fan, but your description of the umpiring just will not do. That was pure, unadulterated horseshit, and there are no two ways about it. Gerry Davis destroyed a baseball game. I can only hope that YS has the same "so long as you don't curse" policy that MSG at least used to have, because there's a summer game that Davis is leaving with a red ass. MLB should be ashamed to have two performances that disgraceful in a row. And tonight's guy wasn't even fair about it. It's just bullshit.

Ask the folks in Detroit. Plenty of people who *can* do their jobs are out of work. If those fat jackholes behind the plate can't do their jobs, they should be out on their ears.

6 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:01 am

[2] I would prefer to throw El Duque in a game like this, but i think he's like 50 now.

7 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:04 am

[5] I saw Davis setting up over the right hander's inside corner and calling that corner with a little give. and missing everything on the other side of the plate, where cc was pitching. i did not think it was well called, but also not nearly as bad as the game threaders seem to think. cc missed by a lot a lot of the time.

8 thelarmis   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:06 am

[6] i think 50 is well in duque's rearview mirror!

i'd settle for andy. we know for sure he isn't quite 40 yet!

9 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:06 am

[6] I'd still trust El Duque today. :(

10 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:09 am

[7] I dunno, this wasn't the only at bat completely marred by horrible calls:


That's Jackson's "walk" during the 2 run rally.

The umpire was legitimately terrible tonight behind the plate.

11 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:11 am
12 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:12 am

Is it my imaginaton or has CC been not so great since the endless six man rotation experience began?

Anyway, somehow despite his performance for the last two seasons, AJ still end up starting in the postseason, and in a must win game to boot. He won't be made to go away. It's like Sergio Mitre revisited.

Oh well. Fortunately MLB's decision to start these games at 8:30 makes it all but impossible for me to catch any of the games live, so I have missed out on the real time frustration. I suspect tthat I will be about the whimpering end to the season tomorrow morning, and then off season mode begins.

13 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:13 am

[11] Stop it, I was just calming down about this! Feckin disgrace, umpires need to go!

14 thelarmis   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:14 am

[12] i'll be rooting on the brewers before my full off-season mode kicks in...

15 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:14 am

Not that CC pitched well tonight, but the broken strike zone clearly favored Verlander throwing to LHB far more than it favored Sabathia throwing to RHB, since the ump was giving the pitch away to the former and not to the latter.

16 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:15 am

[12] Et tu, monkeypants???

17 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:16 am

[14] My mom's family is from Wisconsin, I'm totally hoping for a Yankees v Brewers World Serious!

18 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:17 am

[7] Seriously, you need to check pitchfx. It was EXACTLY as bad as everyone was complaining about.

Strangely enough, he seemed to squeeze Verlander a few times later in the game to make it look slightly less shameful, but not enough to change the fact that this was a DISGRACE.

He burned CC out in the first inning. I honestly believe the first inning was as much Gerry Davis' fault as it was CC's.

And the light red stairway to heaven up the outside of the batter's box, farther and farther out of the strike zone - that you will see if you look at pitchfx is exhibit 1 through infinity why that fucking chump should never get another playoff game for the rest of his life.

It was horrible.

19 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:18 am

[7] And not that Joel Sherman is not an ass, but I liked that he was basically like, "so, Gerry, any comments on fucking the Yanks all game long and sucking at your job?"

20 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:20 am

[11] Cult, I'm so angry I can't bring myself to save screen shots and photo bucket and the like - could you please make one that shows the stairway to heaven starting off the low part of the zone and making one hideous, fucked up diagonal going further and further away from the strikezone? Just select Verlander, zoom and save...

21 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:21 am

[19] Where was this?

22 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:22 am

[20] I'll see what I can do tomorrow, probably heading off to bed soon here tonight.

23 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:23 am

[16]Seriously, though, other than AJ Burnetts feelings, did the six man rotation wind up benefiting anyone? It seems like three of the four pitchers we actually care about, CC, Colon and Freddy all pitched worse. Maybe Nova?

24 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:24 am

[20] Oh, looks like NoMaas has done it for us:


25 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:29 am

[24] I guess I'm glad they did that, but it's not an effective presentation. They just need to side by side Verlander and Sabathia's pitches to see approximately 60-70% of how this game was decided.

Their presentation is confusing and muddled, when showing it more plainly makes clear just how much Gerry Davis fucked us raw.

26 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:29 am

Said Burnett: "You can't count me out. I'm going to bring everything I've got and just let A.J. loose out there."

Good God...I need a drink.

27 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 4, 2011 3:10 am

[26] [cracking up] Good one. You can't make that stuff up.

But, then again, ya never know.

Shit, I'm going to be deflated without baseball....and I'm already halfway through "Life" (Keef's autobiography).

28 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 3:29 am

[27] Keef bio: rainy England, Mick, Jack Daniels, blues records, pills, pot, Howlin' Wolf, acid, "What happened to Brian?", Marianne, coke, heroin, "She slept with HIM?", tax exile, Exile on Main St, Mick becomes a clown, drug busts, heroin, disco, reggae, millions&millions&millions of $$, Johnny Depp, elder statesmen. Throw in constant Marlboros and what else I miss? Don't need to read the rest, do you? :)

29 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 4, 2011 5:52 am

Still find myself wanting to smash Gerry Davis' head off the corner of a marble countertop.


Even though the two events are not equivalent, a cartoon of Gerry Davis as an unholy cross between a human and a midge would entertain me.

30 randym77   ~  Oct 4, 2011 7:05 am

[7] That was how I saw it. The strike zone was weird, but it was fairly consistent. It just really screwed over CC because he was throwing on the tight side, while Verlander was hanging out on the generous side. Verlander just seemed able to adapt to the strike zone better.

31 JeremyM   ~  Oct 4, 2011 8:19 am

I'm color blind, so I have a hard time reading that huge plot. Batter to batter, I can see a lot clearer where the ump was just terrible on say the Jackson walks.

One thing that bugs me is when people say he was "consistent." Isn't the strike zone in the rulebook? Consistently calling a strike a ball and vice versa is consistently awful umpiring. Yeah, CC should've probably adjusted a bit better. But a lot of the damage was done by that first inning, as far as wear and tear. I don't get why umpires are able to make up their own strike zone. As Kanye says, no one man should have that power.....

And I guess we were the only ones that saw he could barely finish an intentional walk in the 5th. Sure, bring him out for the 6th, why not?

32 Yankee Mama   ~  Oct 4, 2011 9:05 am

I remember watching Gerry Davis calling a game and not giving Pettitte any of those pitches on the left side of the plate. It was aggravating. However, Andy, adjusting to the imposed parameters, would make the same pitch, but put it inside a couple of inches and get the call. CC could not. He was giving too much plate and the Tigers were laying off the off speed stuff until it started working for him in later innings.

Nevertheless, based on the graph the Nomaas did, Davis was just being unfair. It's a metaphor. Life is not fair!

And to think that it comes down to the Tigers vs. The head case. At least, we won't be able to place too many expectations on him. That would be insane. I only hope the talented, unhittable AJ turns up, the game 2 version. If not, no surprise, just disappointment.

33 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Oct 4, 2011 9:33 am

[28] Very funny. I would put in how the Stones were buried on stage by James Brown in Santa Monica, and The Who at the Rock & Roll Circus.

I woke up serene (but tired) today. Enough of this obsession. I hope AJ and the staff can surprise, but life will go on. Baseball will end now, or at the end of the month.

Arod, Tex, Swish (swinging 2-0 on Valverde when he could not find the strike zone), Cano, Martin, Jeter...there's a lot of blame to go around. CC wasn't perfect, but good enough and with a different umpire might have been great as the tone was set early.

Will now always dislike: Delmon Young, Inge, Valverde for his big mouth, Gerry Davis, The entire TBS station...not just this broadcasting booth crew, Comerica Park, who did I miss?

34 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 4, 2011 8:19 pm

[28] Not sure what you are getting at dude, but it sounds trite and disrespectful. Did you read it?

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver