Freddy Garcia made one major mistake. He hung an outside slider to Miguel Cabrera and that was sent over the right field wall for a two-run home run.
On many other days, the Yankee offense would be able to overcome it.
After doing nothing against Max Scherzer, the Yankees nearly rallied off Jose Valverde, but could not complete the comeback and will head to Detroit following yesterday’s 5-3 loss at Yankee Stadium. The loss evened the ALDS at one game apiece.
The Yankees had the tying run up twice against Valverde in the non-save situation, but Derek Jeter struck out swinging. They also had one chance at the winning run after Curtis Granderson walked, but Robinson Cano grounded out to second.
“You think something is going to happen,” Jeter said. “Valverde is hard enough to score against. We just didn’t get it done.”
The series shifts to Detroit Monday for a rematch of the CC Sabathia-Justin Verlander that was curtailed by rain Friday. If the Yankees do not win that game, they face the prospect of pitching A.J. Burnett in an elimination road playoff game.
“A lot of people talk about Game Three being the most important game of a series, all the time,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s real important.”
In some ways the series is similar to the 2006 series against Detroit. The Yankees won Game One of the series with a rousing offensive performance that year then lost an afternoon game against a pitcher making his postseason debut before heading to Detroit.
The other similarity was some of the reaction from the crowd for Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with a walk, is hitless in eight at-bats and heard some boos from the crowd following a pop-up in the eighth.
“I’m not worried about it,” Rodriguez said. “In the playoffs, every pitch is a different lifetime. You can’t worry about what happened and go over the last month.”
Unlike Game Two of the 2006 ALDS, Detroit did not take the lead in the middle of the game.
This time they did 10 pitches into Garcia’s first postseason start since pitching the World Series-clincher for the 2005 White Sox in Houston. After allowing the home run to Cabrera, most of his next 52 pitches were fine. Garcia seemed to get the splitter working by retiring 12 of the next 13 hitters.
“That’s part of my game — try to drive the ball the other way,” Cabrera said. “When they pitch inside, I try to use my hands to pull the ball. When you see a pitcher like Freddy, you have to do that. He gets you off-balance. So you want your hands to stay inside and try to hit it the other way.”
“If it would have been perfectly down in the corner and away, it would have been a little bit better, but what can you do,” Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. “But it’s not a video game.”
Then the sixth inning came. First, Austin Jackson reached on Derek Jeter’s throwing error. Magglio Ordonez got his third single off Garcia and then Detroit went up 3-0 on a Cabrera single to center field.
“I tried to make a good pitch,” Garcia said. “I did, but great hitters do that.”
Garcia’s mostly respectable Yankee playoff debut ended after 77 pitches. The last pitch was a 1-0 curveball that Victor Martinez hit just past second baseman Robinson Cano’s glove for a RBI single.
Two runs were enough for Scherzer.
Through five, he allowed four base runners and worked out of first and third jams twice.
He did so in the first following walks to Cano and Rodriguez by getting Mark Teixeira on a weak pop-out to second base.
Scherzer also did so in the fifth after walking Jorge Posada and hitting Russell Martin. In that instance, he used fastballs to retire Brett Gardner on a lineout to third and Jeter on a groundout to second.
“He throws hard,” Jeter said. “He hits his spots. He didn’t throw too many balls out of the zone.”
Scherzer was the third pitcher to take a no-hitter through five against the Yankees, joining ex-Tiger Jeremy Bonderman (Game 4 2006 ALDS). Cano’s bloop base hit with one in the sixth broke up the no-hitter and though the Yankees knocked Scherzer out two batters into the seventh, they could not get anything off Joaquin Benoit, who struck out two with two on.
The Yankees rallied behind Granderson’s solo home run in the eighth and Swisher’s solo shot in the ninth. With two runners on in the ninth, after the third run of the game scored on an Andruw Jones sac fly, Cano grounded out to second.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.