After a week filled with clutch home runs, it was only natural to wonder what trick Raul Ibanez had up his sleeve when he came up to the plate with two on and two outs in the top of the ninth inning.
It turned out former Yankee Phil Coke had the trick up his sleeve in the form of a 3-2 slider that Ibanez waved at for the final out of a 2-1 loss to put the Yankees on the verge of being swept out of the ALCS.
CC Sabathia, who pitched a complete-game four-hitter in Game 5 of the ALDS, will oppose Max Scherzer, who beat the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2011 ALDS.
Coke’s gutsy pitch preserved Verlander’s best playoff start against the Yankees. He allowed one run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings against a Yankee lineup that had Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher on the bench.
He gave up two harmless singles to Ichiro in the fourth and seventh and Eduardo Nunez’s solo home run leading off the ninth.
Other than those three hits, nothing worked offensively for the Yankees, who are on the verge of getting swept in a best-of-seven series for the first time since Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale led the Dodgers to a sweep in the 1963 World Series.
Manager Joe Girardi tried Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot with the idea that speed at the top or the order might help. It didn’t, as Gardner grounded out three times and popped up in his other at-bat.
Girardi also tried moving Cano to the cleanup spot, which failed until the ninth. Cano grounded out in his first two at-bats and struck out for the second out of the seventh, making him 0-for-13 in the series but finally got that elusive hit to put two on in the ninth for Ibanez.
He also tried Eric Chavez in place of Rodriguez. Chavez flied out, popped out in two at-bats and also bobbled Quentin Berry’s ground ball in the fifth that led to a run when Miguel Cabrera lined a double over Curtis Granderson’s head in center field.
Cabrera’s hit came against David Phelps. Phelps was pressed into action after Phil Hughes left with back stiffness. Hughes gave up Delmon Young’s home run in the fourth but left after throwing just two more pitches to Jhonny Peralta.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.