"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

In the Books

On the line at Yankee Stadium tonight, the end of the season versus the glory of the ALCS. Agony or ecstasy in their undiluted forms. Nervous, excited? Sure. Not scared though, that’s not our thing.

Rookie Ivan Nova fired the ball at Austin Jackson to start the game and whatever butterflies were in my stomach were blown away by the gas same as Jackson.

Don Kelly stepped to plate and Nova continued to deal. With a strike to Kelly, he threw his wrinkle curve for the second pitch. Kelly opened up, waited and hooked the spinning orb into the right field seats. You’ve seen Paul O’Neill do it a bunch of times. Same little flick. The next pitch to Dangerous Delmon Young was a change-up. Good idea to the first-pitch-fastball loving Young, but up at the top of the strike zone, the change up is vulnerable. Young, the best hitter in this series from either team, killed it. 2-0 Tigers, and the butterflies returned hauling lead.

Derek Jeter led off the first for the Yankees by swatting a hot shot down the first base line but Miguel Cabrera fell and smothered it with his big belly. I wonder now how difficult a play that really was, but at the time I figured Jeter wuz robbed. The Yankees went quietly after that.

Nova battled with Magglio Ordonez to start the second. Nova kept throwing good pitches, but Ordonez eventually tugged at a low breaking ball and scalded it into the left field corner for a double. Nova retired Avila on a grounder to second and caught a break when Jhonny Peralta shot a bullet right to Alex Rodriguez for the second out. He struck out Ramon Santiago to end the threat. And his night, as it turns out. He had forearm stiffness and could not continue.

Nova was confident and he was aggressive. He threw strikes and looked good with his fastball. But he let up two home runs on poorly executed off speed pitches and put the Yanks in a hole. Nobody is going to blame Nova for blowing the season, but it would have been nice to give the Yanks a crack at drawing first blood.

Mark Teixeira hit a ground rule double with one out in the second. The Yanks could not move him around. Two backwards Ks made the inning especially frustrating. Phil Hughes replaced Nova in the third and had a great inning. He rang up two strike outs and he got Miguel Cabrera to ground out. The best part is that when facing Delmon Young, he merely yielded a laser beam single.

Gardner’s single and Granderson’s walk preceded Cano with two outs in the third. He got a tough strike call on the ump’s favorite corner (again, the lefty batter’s outside corner was given generously) and battled from there. He protected close pitches, though I have no idea if they would have been called strikes. I give Robbie the benefit of the doubt considering the previous calls. He got a couple of chances at hittable pitches and couldn’t produce. He flew out on a high heater to center to end the inning.

Hughes started the fourth and retired Victor Martinez. Ordonez smacked a fastball to right for a single and that was it for Hughes. How far could he have gone? He looked pretty sharp. But trailing 2-0 and a long winter of fishing for CC awaiting the Yankees, Girardi went to Logan to face the lefty Alex Avila. Avila was hitless in the entire series up to that point, so of course he hit the first pitch for a single. Logan got the righties though and the score stayed at 2-0.

Finally in the fourth, the Yankees looked dangerous. Alex walked and Swisher and Posada hit singles after a Teixeira pop out. Bases loaded. Russell Martin popped out. Brett Gardner popped out and the air went of the balloon with a sickening hiss.

CC Sabathia started the sixth facing Austin Jackson. In Game Three, they had several very frustrating match ups. Add another one to the list. Jackson hit a broken bat double on a pitcher’s pitch deep into the at bat. Sabathia responded to strikeout Don Kelly and Delmon Young, though he had to work for it. Girardi called for the intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera. Figure a homer by either Cabrera or Martinez was going to kill the game, so might as well make the less powerful guy end it. Sabathia threw a fat breaking ball down the middle and Martinez served right back into center field for a dreaded two-out RBI. The inning ended there, 3-0 Tigers.

Things looked grim at that point. But Fister did not look good enough to hold the Yankees down forever. He got two quick outs in the fifth and faced Cano. He threw a little cutter or slider toward the inside corner and Robinson turned on it like a woman scorned, launching it into the second deck. 3-1.

CC came back out for the sixth and retired Alex Avila. If Alex Avila could have batted for every single spot in the lineup, the Yankees would have thrown three shutouts and maybe two no-hitters. He walked Jhonny Peralta and gave way to Rafeal Soriano. It was the end of a very sad ALDS for CC. Hope it was not his last game as a Yankee. Soriano got a double play ground ball to clear the slate.

The Tigers went to pen to start the sixth, which I thought was a good idea. Fister had thrown 92 pitches and in a two-run game, no need to push things. Jim Leyland called on Game Two hero Max Scherzer. He looked less than he was in Game 2, but he still got the first two outs. Posada managed to ground another single for his sixth hit of a fantastic ALDS, but Martin whiffed on a change-up two feet inside.

The Detroit pitchers really had it made in this series – at least the two games I covered. The umps gave the pitcher’s a ton of latitude on that one corner, and every pitcher they trotted out had a natural fade right to that spot. The Yankee southpaws were left to swing at pitches on the outside corner or off the corner and not being sure where strikes ended and balls began. The righties had it even tougher, as they almost had to be hit by a pitch to get a ball called on the inside corner.

At this point, let’s just skip past the Platonic Ideal of the Yankee bullpen which retired 11 straight Tigers which ease from the sixth through the ninth. Precision and power; if you blinked, you missed them pitch. Soriano, Hammer, Sandman. Nothing but slack-jawed gawkers in their wake.

The Yankees loaded the bases with one out again in the seventh. Derek Jeter hit a slow grounder and hustled his ass-off for a hit. Joaquin Benoit replaced Scherzer to face Curtis Granderson. Granderson put on his best at bat of the night, worked the count full and guided a low outside pitch into right for a single. Jeter did not realize how deep the right fielder was playing, because he could have made it to third easily. He got there on the next pitch as Cano squeaked it off the end of the bat and it spun past Benoit for an unlikely hit. Bases loaded for Alex. He got one beautiful pitch right down the pipe and he fouled the fastball back. He swung through a change up well out of the strike zone for strike three. You could lick the disappointment oozing out of the Stadium.

Mark Teixeira came up next and took five straight pitches for a walk and a 3-2 game. All five pitches looked like balls, though the one called a strike was on the upper edge which usually does not get called. Benoit threw another five straight balls to Swisher, but this time he recorded a strike out for his troubles. The first pitch, which was both high and outside, was called a strike and it screwed up the rest of the at bat. Benoit just kept aiming near that same spot and Swisher finally swung at a couple of them. He missed.

The bottom of the eighth got quickly to Gardner with two outs. Somehow Benoit was still in there. I thought  he was going to blow it on every fastball he threw. Gardner slapped a single through the hole and everybody knew a steal was coming. Benoit threw a high heater, Gardner broke, and Jeter swung. I was shocked, but the ball looked right off the bat. The kind of fly ball to right that just carries over the wall at the last instant. The right fielder Don Kelly got back to the wall and reached up his arms. Their was no kid to pull the ball into the stands, and Kelly caught it against the wall.

Should Jeter have let Gardner steal? My opinion is that when the tying or go ahead run is at the plate, he should have carte blanche to swing away. The best way to win the game is with a home run right there. Jeter almost got it. It was just an out and now I wish he hadn’t swung, but I trust the hitters to make the determination. If they can crush a pitch, they should swing. I don’t fault Jeter for that decision, he gave it a ride.

Trailing 3-2 entering the ninth, the Yankees sent their two best hitters to the plate against the guy who guaranteed he would beat them. It was a pretty great showdown. To beat the Yankees, Jose Valverde would have to beat their best. And if he brought that weak-ass shit he brought in Games Two and Three, the Yankees were going to beat him. The stage was set for a Yankee Classic.

But it never happened. Curtis Granderson worked a long at bat and got two pitches to hit. He fouled off the first one. He popped up the last one. He missed them, plain and simple. Pitches he’s tattooed all year long, he missed them. Robinson Cano got a sweet chance when the first fastball tailed right into his happy zone, but his lumber betrayed him. His swing looked pure, but on contact the bat came into two pieces and the ball lost crucial juice. It went all the way out to fairly deep center where Austin Jackson made the catch. I have no trouble imagining where that ball was headed had the bat maintained structural integrity. It was going to a happy place.

That left it up to Alex Rodriguez. Whatever good will that man built up in this town with his epic 2009 Postseason, he may have squandered tonight. Hopefully we’re not that fickle. He struck with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh when a hit would have tied the game. As the tying run, he struck out in the ninth to end the season. He took a low strike and watched a splitter float over the middle. He finally went right through a fastball down the middle.


Having the season end in ALDS sucks beyond anything else, except not making it in the first place, or of course, losing to the Red Sox. I’d rather get stuck with the hideous memories of the ninth inning of Game Seven in Arizona than be eliminated like this. The Postseason stretches on endlessly, but it’s like a phantom limb for Yankee fans now. We can feel it out there, but we can’t see it, can’t touch it, can’t use it. Reality crashes in and our world opens up for other things to fill baseball’s void. But that happens anyway. A few more weeks was all we asked. And an honest chance at number 28.

All year long, I noticed that the Yankees win big and lose close. That’s the mark of a very good team. I wish they won more games when trailing late. Maybe that’s entirely a function of luck and timing which the players cannot control. The 2009 team did it all year long and then they did it in the Postseason and won a World Series. The 2011 team rarely did it in the regular season and failed in three comeback bids in the ALDS. Each time one swing of the bat at the right time would have won the game for the Yankees. But they never got that swing. In 2009, they easily could have been knocked out by the Twins or Angels if not for Arod’s heroics. If Jeter gets three feet more on his eighth inning drive, the Yankees are the team with heart and character. A few feet short and they’re overpaid losers.

The Yankees are the better team. I don’t think anyone could walk away from this series thinking the Tigers outplayed them. But CC Sabathia went head to head with Justin Verlander and got smacked down. CC got no decisions, but his performances in Game Three and Five went a long way to deciding the series for Detroit. The starting pitching scared many of us before the ALDS, but they Yankees were fine there. It was CC and the bats, scoring nine runs total in their three losses. Not cashing in on any of the big moments in all three losses. Legends were ripe for the making, but not this year.

I covered the end of 2010, and now the end of 2011. I think this is much, much worse than last year. Maybe that’s the fresh sting, but I’m sticking to it.


Couple last things though, because this is baseball, and the Yankees gave us a good season and they don’t deserve to go out in a flood of piss and vinegar. Not what we wanted, given how they ended the year on top, but from where I started with this team, I give them mad props. Thinking they were a third place finisher who might catch a break and snag the Wild Card to winning 97 games at a trot, wow.

We probably will never see Jorge Posada play baseball again. He was one hell of a Yankee. I think ultimately he came up too late in his career to accumulate the numbers he’ll need to be ensrhined in Cooperstown, but I would support an even bigger honor. Having his number retired by the Yankees. What a wonderful ALDS. Thanks for everything Jorge.

And though it will be impossible not to take this loss with us into the upcoming off-season, be sure to take something else with you. Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 5. Has he ever looked better? He broke bats like match sticks. Martin never moved his glove even a hair. And his pitches spun and cut at breathtaking speed. Vaverde got three saves, got to celebrate, but Mariano reached Nirvana in his final inning of the 2011 season. Take that with you, too.






Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Playoffs  Yankees

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1 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:23 am

This one hurts.

I felt it coming, but it still hurts.

2 bases loaded situations with 1 out.

1 run ... on a walk.

0 balls hit beyond the infield.


Just like the hitting with RiSP the whole series.

I think the Yankees were the better team. I don't feel like they were beaten, I feel they lost.

But, so it goes. Wasn't the 1st time, won't be the last.

Wish Jorge had managed something memorable in his final at bat as a Yankee (and likely final at bat ever).

Plenty of off-season questions for Cashman, or whomever is the GM for this team going forward.

We shall see, we shall see ...

2 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:26 am

Oh, and thanks to Alex and Jon and Will and Hank and Emma and everyone who did the previews and recaps and various and sundry posts throughout the year.

The Banter is my home for Yankees chatting, it wouldn't be that way without the effort you all put into making it that way for all of us on the user side of things!

Much love and total props from me to all of you.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:32 am

[2] Thanks to you to Cult, and the entire Banter community. Writing for you guys is a pleasure.

Alex, thanks to you most of all for 9 years (!) of Banter.

Tonight hurt no doubt, but I'm bumming on the immediate future. Sting is receding, I think I'm most upset that the postseason goes on without us. It would be more weeks of living on the edge and filled with anticipation. and that's just gone in the blink of an eye.

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:34 am

And now I've got to finish all the chores I left undone all night. I should just stay up straight to tomorrow.

5 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:35 am

[4] I've broken into the whiskey ... don't know if that would help or hinder you in your efforts ...

6 thelarmis   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:35 am

many thanks to alex, the banter crew, commenters and those who read but don't post. i've been here since the beginning - back when alex was part of all-baseball.com - and it keeps getting better and better. it's my online home and family. and remember, the banter is 365 days a year, so you don't have to disappear until spring!

and special thanks to my pinstriped heroes, for another memorable season. i'll be here cheering for the Yankees in 2012!!!

7 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:42 am

I am also kinda intrigued by what could have been in game one

8 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:59 am

As I was somewhat suspecting and fearful of:

Ivan Nova left Game Five with tightness in his right forearm tonight, and the team announced after the game that he will undergo an MRI tomorrow. I dunno if it’s something that popped up during the game, but I sure hope it wasn’t bothering him beforehand and he tried to pitch through it anyway. Forearm tightness is a common precursor to Tommy John surgery, but there’s no point in worrying about that now. Let’s see what the MRI says before freaking out.

(from RAB)

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 7, 2011 2:12 am

[8] Hope he's OK. He's possibly the number starter one the team next year.

10 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 7, 2011 5:59 am

Well the Yanks may lose but our post game reports are always winners. Thanks for giving, Jon.

Just wondering, whatever happened to Mystic and Aura? I miss those ladies.

11 ms october   ~  Oct 7, 2011 6:19 am

well this still stinks.

the hits didn't come when needed and the big man didn't have a good showing.

this was also an awful series for the home plate umps. with all the technological advances it is crazy that some fat ass behind the plate should have such an influence on the game.

for his sake and the yankees i really hope nova is okay.
the yankees obviously need him and he ended up as my favorite pitcher to watch at the end of the season.

i also hope they give montero a legitimate shot at catching some games next year because russell martin's at-bats are pretty much putrid.

i'm not ready to not be invested in baseball.
but thanks to alex and the rest of the authors, posters, and lurkers here at our beloved bronx banter.
since this joint doesn't close up for the winter see everybody around.

12 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 7, 2011 6:51 am

I'm ready to hit the hottest of the hot-stove discussions..who goes to the Cubs, Boy Genius or Cash Money?

13 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Oct 7, 2011 6:59 am

Feck it, I don't need Yankees baseball. Got a lot of projects over the next 6 months. Jazz kids need raising, more Japanese to study, Rahsaan Roland Kirk bio to read, German wheat beer to consume, trip to Taiwan..nope, I can get by juuuuuuust fine without baseball....


14 inOhio   ~  Oct 7, 2011 7:13 am

When does the Yankees brass come to grips with the fact that their strategy isn't working. They buy enough talent to get them to the playoffs every year, and almost always fall flat.

Arod really appears to be done, I cringe at the thought of AJ returning, and I want CC to walk so we can better deploy the $. But they'll trot out the same type of team next year, we'll gain the playoffs and that will be it.

15 Marek   ~  Oct 7, 2011 7:14 am

Thanks to the proprietor and all the writers on this blog, who added a lot to the season for me.

Too bad the bats took the night off. It would have been great to beat a poseur like Valverde.

16 Just Fair   ~  Oct 7, 2011 7:45 am

Much thanks to the folks who keep this place up and running. It's always fun to come here to both commiserate and celebrate. Last night was rough and 8 hours later I am still flummoxed by the lack of offense. It was friggin' cold this morning and there are 6 months ahead without meaningful baseball. I'll root for Greinke and The Beer guys I guess. Bollocks!

17 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 7, 2011 7:48 am

I have no printable words at this time.

18 Simone   ~  Oct 7, 2011 8:20 am

Tough way to end the season, but to be honest, I think that it was surprising the Yankees won the division and I never expected them to go very far in the playoffs. So here's to next season with hopefully better pitching.

19 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 7, 2011 8:41 am

[14] Have you seen the free agent class this year? Who on earth would you rather "deploy the money" on?

20 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 7, 2011 8:47 am

the first thing I thought this morning when I woke up was "Who's pitching tomorrow?"...that wasn't a fun moment.

First off thanks to the whole Banter crew, I wasn't on the game threads as much as I'd like this year but everyone here continues to out-do themselves day after day.

I think I'm more sad about this one than anything else. I'm pissed at A-Rod and Tex, but I feel more like "they just made big pitches." And they did, I know we all had visions dancing in our heads of Yankee Stadium rattling Fister, Scherzer, Benoit, and Valverde...but I think at some point we all need to acknowledge that those guys are ya know, GOOD. This wasn't getting shutdown by the likes of Paul Byrd or Kenny Rogers. These guys can pitch, whether we wanna admit it or not.

But 97 wins, beating The Greatest Team of All Time for the AL East, Jeter 3,000, Mo 602, the Birth of Jesus, 16 wins from Nova, MVP-type years from Granderson and Robbie, Jeter's comeback in the second half. Yeah the 2011 season wasn't too terrible.

21 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 7, 2011 8:56 am

[20] I'm with you most of the way there. I stop short of giving too much credit to the Tigers staff outside of Verlander. I don't think they're that good.

22 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:04 am

[20] Did you wind up going last night? Mike said you were trying

And I do think that getting shut down by Scherzer, who just wasn't very good this year, particularly on the road, was pretty terrible.

23 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:04 am

[21] I think Benoit was ripe for the picking, and not cashing in in the 8th is what will haunt me the most this winter. But I think Fister and Scherzer are just flat good, there's no way around it.

I don't think Valverde is good, you don't think Valverde is good, no one thinks Valverde is good.

But as flawed a stat as the save is, shit man 51-51 is what it is. Wetteland had a knack for pulling that third out out of his ass too.

24 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:07 am

[22] Nah, my brilliant plan was to "save for the ALCS". Its probably best I didn't because I doubt I'd have any perspective if I did.

Scherzer wasn't good this year, but he was coming out throwing 99 with movement last night. for one inning that's gonna be effective.

25 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:10 am

[23] Yep. It also helps you be good when you get the perfect strike zone for your fading right handed change up and tailing right handed fastball.

Scherzer may be for real, and maybe Fister has turned a corner in his career. But Seattle just traded him for a bag of peanuts, I can't call him flat good.

26 rbj   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:11 am

Dreaded the series against the Tiggers, even though things didn't happen the way I expected. Even with the best AL record, I felt the Yankees offense was, to resurrect the ghost of Joe Morgan, too inconsistent.

Rotation, ugh, that's going to be a huge project.

27 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:15 am

so...we think they're going after King Felix? Because I really don't think it's out of the question.

28 rbj   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:21 am

[25] It's not that Fister or Valverde are all that good, but that they are on a roll right now. Tigers have caught lightning in a bottle right now.

29 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 7, 2011 9:52 am

If you believe the Yanks are the better team, then it goes to say they did not give their best effort. If they had really tried as best as they could, there would only be disappointment. Cash said we could either win the whole thing or get swept in the first round, so I'm not surprised, but I'm angry at the flat failures in key moments that allowed the latter.

30 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Oct 7, 2011 10:19 am

I am completely at ease with the "they just got beat" theme and I didn't wake up this morning thinking the universe had screwed the Yankees. But it doesn't take spite or denial to identify critical mistakes that went into getting beat.

For me, this was they key: Zero offensive bench moves.

We all spit up our whiskey last night seeing the merry-go-round of pitchers, but Girardi ended up foxing us there. One run over seven innings is the kind of thing you sign up for in a bullpen.

Zero offensive bench moves. The nine guys who started in the batting order all finished in it. We went down leaving Montero, Chavez, Nunez, Dickerson and Jones as unfired bullets in the gun.

Any of whom would have been an improvement over Martin at any time. Some of whom would have been credible improvements over Swisher late in the game.

If we'd lost a game with Mariano sitting on the bench unused, Girardi would catch hell. Why did a major league team, struggling to score in an elimination game, basically act as if it had no offensive bench at all?

31 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 7, 2011 10:31 am

[25] The Yankees couldn't hit a changeup if *I* threw it. We've long since passed the point where it needs a good strikezone or good movement. Or even to be changing up off anything

32 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 7, 2011 10:39 am

someone brought this up on Twitter last night and I'll run with it.

lets hope that last night, with Montero sitting on the bench while Martin flailed about helplessly, was this decade's "Mo sitting in the Kingdome bullpen" moment

33 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 7, 2011 11:41 am

[30] "Why did a major league team, struggling to score in an elimination game, basically act as if it had no offensive bench at all?"

Maybe that's what he meant when asking who was tighter, Nova's arm or Girardi? Lots of other winning teams played a hunch at least with their bench and it worked. Girardi not using his was either tooptimism with his flat starters, distrust of his bench or an indictment of Cashman's (or his own perhaps)judgment in assembling a productive roster. In any case, Joe's gonna get flogged today and I can't say he doesn't deserve some of it.

34 rob_smith_51   ~  Oct 7, 2011 1:40 pm

[32] If I was Joe G, I would have started Montero at DH even though Posada was having a good series. I don't know if that would have made the difference, but it would have made me think that Girardi was willing to try something out of the ordinary. Props for his bullpen usage in a tough spot with Nova going down after 2 innings. It was more about not performing than anything else, however.

35 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 7, 2011 4:08 pm

[34] I would have pinch hit with Montero when Martin came up with men on base the second or third time. Look, if you're gonna make desperation moves, you gotta use what you have. Montero had better odds of giving you two or three runs in one at bat, so even with the step down in defense, a passed ball two would give Detroit one run at best. I guess Joe was afraid to try; I can't think of any other reason than that Montero was a rookie and therefore he couldn't trust him in a big moment. It would have taken big balls to put him in that situation, but I guess there weren't any available.

36 jjmerlock   ~  Oct 7, 2011 4:53 pm

I have said elsewhere that the Martin at bat is the failure of the series. I think letting him hit was a huge mistake, not because you knew something better was available, but because the outcome of what you went with was so predictable.

37 stormer   ~  Oct 7, 2011 5:24 pm

[36] Agreed. You have to go down swinging, more or less. The game was on the line there. Sure, Martin could get a hit, but Montero was swinging well, and had the potential to put the game away with one crack.

I strongly believe in this philosophy, which is why, regardless of the outcome, Leyland having Verlander throw a bullpen session and be unavailable for last night's game, was moronic.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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