Stuck in a miserable slump, the New York Yankees head to Detroit down 2-0 in the American League Championship Series and must face one of the best pitchers in the game, Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ Game Three starter.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said after his team managed just four hits in Sunday’s 3-0 home loss to the Tigers.
“People think we’re crazy for saying that but if you want to win the World Series you have to beat the best, and he’s definitely the best right now.”
Verlander, the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player, is coming off an 11-strikeout gem in the decisive game of the American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics.
The Yankees have failed up and down the lineup, hitting .205 as a team in their seven playoff games. Since their postseason opener, a 7-2 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, the team known as the Bronx Bombers has scored a mere 13 runs in six games.
Robinson Cano, the team’s best hitter in the regular season, has two hits in 32 postseason at-bats (.063).
All they can do is hope their fortunes change, and they will not have team captain Derek Jeter to help since he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Saturday’s series opener.
“At any moment, things can turn around,” said Raul Ibanez, the most productive Yankee hitter in the playoffs with seven hits including three homers in 16 at-bats.
“This is baseball. Things turn in a matter of a heartbeat,” said Curtis Granderson, who is 3-for-26 (.115) with a team-high 14 strikeouts in the playoffs.
Hitting coach Kevin Long attributed Sunday’s struggles to Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, who gave up three hits and struck out seven in seven innings.
Sanchez was throwing a mid-90s fastball and mixing in sliders, changeups and curves that Long rated “very good.”
“What does Verlander have? He’s got the same arsenal. It’s an uphill battle. We’ve got to scratch and claw and fight and try to turn this thing around,” Long said. “There’s a lot of guys getting booed so maybe going on the road will help.”
Frustrated fans even turned on right-fielder Nick Swisher, one of the more popular Yankees for his cheerful disposition.
Swisher failed to catch a fly ball in the deciding 12th inning in Saturday’s loss to the Tigers, extending an inning in which Jeter later got hurt.
“Expectations are high here and when you don’t perform you hear about it,” said Swisher, who is 4-for-26 at the plate (.154).
“I’ve heard some things I’ve never heard before. I missed that ball in the lights and the next I hear it’s my fault that Jeter got hurt.”