The Yankees said all the right things about how they have bounced back during the regular season and how they can do so even though they are two games from elimination.
While it is possible, it seems unlikely after watching the Yankees struggle again to make contact during a 3-0 loss to the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS.
“It’s happened to this team before,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I think it would be more puzzling if it never happened. I’ll tell you what and we’ve overcome a lot of adversity and we’ll do it again.”
“I know we have a great team,” Robinson Cano added. “This is not about one guy.”
The Yankees managed just four hits and three walks against Anibal Sanchez and Phil Coke. And as in the sixth inning against Doug Fister in Game 1, they struggled against Sanchez’s breaking pitches.
“We have to make adjustments,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to make adjustments. We know what they are doing to us. You have to make adjustments. They are not going to put it on a tee for us. We know that. We are more than capable of scoring runs and have done it a number of times.”
This time there was no Raul Ibanez to save them. Ibanez had one of the hits and two of the walks, but his clutch play has merely masked the lack of production from Cano, Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher.
Cano was 0-for-4 with four groundouts, dropping him to 2-for-28 in the postseason and hitless in his last 26 at-bats — a playoff record. Rodriguez was cheered in his first at-bat by the crowd, almost as if they were imploring him to get a hit, but he was 1-for-3 with two strikeouts against Sanchez and is now 3-for-23 with 12 strikeouts this postseason.
Swisher, who lost Delmon Young’s double in the lights Saturday, reached on an infield single but also struck out two times. He is now 4-for-26 in the postseason.
Granderson also had an ugly day, going 0-for-3 with a walk. The three outs were strikeouts, including the final out of the game that left the Yankee batting average in the series at .192 and .205 in seven postseason games.
Their next stop is Detroit on Tuesday. The Yankees will have Monday off, but then return to face Justin Verlander, who will be opposed by Phil Hughes.
“It is what it is,” Russell Martin said. “We’re down 0-2 and we’ve bounced back before.”
“Go win a game Tuesday,” Girardi said of his message to the team. “That’s all you say.”
The forgettable showing at the plate overshadowed outstanding pitching by Hiroki Kuroda.
Kuroda pitched on three days rest for the first time and was brilliant. Though he was charged with three runs and five hits, he was much better than the final line indicated.
Kuroda retired the first 15 Tigers in order, with eight coming on strikeouts, as he threw just 59 strikes. He wound up with 11 strikeouts — three to sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder — and did not issue a walk.
“It’s tough,” Martin said. “You can’t ask for anything more from our starters. They’ve done a good job. Offensively we just have to pick up the slack.”
The Tigers finally got a hit when Jhonny Peralta led off the sixth with a single, but Kuroda recorded three groundouts to end the inning.
The Tigers got their first run when Quentin Berry doubled to center, took third on Miguel Cabrera’s single to right and scored on a fielder’s choice by Delmon Young.??Young hit a foul ball that appeared playable for first baseman Mark Teixeira, but a fan in the first row prevented him from making the catch. On the next pitch, Young hit a hard grounder to shortstop Jayson Nix that could have been a double play, but as Cano tried to make the transfer he dropped the ball and Berry scored.?
Five relievers followed Kuroda and Detroit added to the lead on pinch hitter Avisail Garcia’s bloop single to right field and a Cabrera base hit.
Girardi was ejected in the eighth when second base umpire Jeff Nelson blew a call, ruling Omar Infante safe at second after he overran the bag and was thrown out by Swisher in right field.
The blown call and ineffective pitching made a three-run deficit seem like 10. Those in the crowd who stayed for the painful final six outs made their voices heard by loudly booing every out.
Cano, who for the most part had been immune to the jeers, even heard the boos.
“When things kind of turn like that, it hurts a little bit,” Swisher said. “The crowd rallies around this team. That’s the reason why we got 27 championships. To go through a stretch like this, where it’s kind of a negative attitude, a negative-type setting, it’s tough. But hey man that’s part of the game [and] rightfully so. There’s a lot of expectations here and I guess when you don’t get the job done, you’re going to hear about it.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.