Ice-cold offense seeking rebound in crucial Game 4
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ROIT -- An ice-cold offense and a red-hot Justin Verlander proved a bad combination for the Yankees on Tuesday as one of baseball's top-hitting regular-season teams continued a postseason struggle that is beginning to reach historical depths.
The Tigers' 2-1 victory dropped the Yankees to the brink of elimination, trailing the best-of-seven series 3-0. And the five-hit outing by Verlander and reliever Phil Coke dropped the Yankees' playoff batting average precisely to the Mendoza Line at .200, which is not a line any team wants to be walking when a season hangs in the balance.
"It's very unfortunate," said first baseman Mark Teixeira. "I'm very surprised. You expect every now and then to have a little rut, but this is too long for us."
The .200 average is the third-lowest in Yankees' postseason history, ahead of only a .171 mark in 1963 and .199 in '62.
As a result, a team that clubbed a franchise-record 245 home runs and was the second-highest scoring team in the Majors at 4.96 runs a game suddenly finds itself struggling to cross the plate.
This is only the fourth Yankees team to score one run or fewer in three games in a single postseason. They touched home just once again Tuesday night at Comerica Park when Eduardo Nunez ended Verlander's shutout bid with a leadoff home run in the ninth.
They've scored in just two of 30 innings in this series and their postseason runs per game is a miserly 2.63 in eight outings.
Surprised by the sudden silence of the bats?
"I am," acknowledged manager Joe Girardi, "but you have to put it all behind you. What has happened, has happened, and you have to find a way to score runs tomorrow."
Things have reached the point where Girardi benched struggling starters Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher on Tuesday. With Derek Jeter already sidelined by his broken left ankle, the Yanks were minus a trio that totaled 57 home runs, 208 RBIs and 248 runs in the regular season.
Their replacements -- Eric Chavez, Brett Gardner and Nunez -- combined for 17 home runs, 51 RBIs and 57 runs in the regular season and went 1-for-10 on Tuesday, with Nunez's home run finally breaking the ice.
Second baseman Robinson Cano ended his string of 29 at-bats without a hit with a ninth-inning single, but not before he'd set a Major League postseason futility record. Before his base hit against reliever Phil Coke, the last time Cano had even reached base was an intentional walk in the seventh inning of the second game of the AL Division Series against the Orioles.
After that walk, Cano was retired 28 straight times -- the equivalent of a perfect game being thrown against one of the game's premier hitters.
Cano is 3-for-36 this postseason. Only two players in Major League history have had 35-plus at-bats in a single postseason and had three hits or fewer, with Chone Figgins of the Angels going 3-for-35 in 2009 and Alex Avila of the Tigers 3-for-41 last season.
"I never was thinking I was in an 0-for-25 or 0-for-30 or whatever it was," Cano said. "You try to forget about what has happened and just try to get on base for the guys."
But Teixeira acknowledged that the accumulation of bad at-bats and tough games seems to have been building on all the Yankees hitters.
"We all want it so bad and sometimes you try too hard when you want it that bad," Teixeira said. "I don't want to speak for anybody else, but I've been in plenty of situations in my career where if you have one or two bad games in a row, you try even harder the next one. And it doesn't happen for you.
"This is a game sometimes it's better to play without caring and play almost stupid, just forget the consequences and what's going on and just try to go out there and try to have fun and whatever happens, happens."
The Yankees are taking heart in having their own ace, CC Sabathia, on the mound on Wednesday.
"CC will come out and give us a chance to win," said Gardner. "We've got to figure out a way to get this offense going and score some runs and get a lead for him."
"I can tell you one thing," said Cano. "It's not over yet. You don't want to think about all those other things. You just want to think about tomorrow and go out there and win a game."