The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
NEW YORK - As controlled chaos surrounded him in the Yankees clubhouse, David Phelps sat at his locker with a near catatonic expression on his face. It was Phelps, the rookie, who not only had given up the go-ahead run in the 11th inning after another amazing comeback fueled by Raul Ibanez, but who also gave up the ball on which his team's iconic player and captain lost his season.
The Yankees lost, 6-4, to the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, but that was an afterthought in the team's clubhouse after the game. Derek Jeter fractured his ankle diving for a ball Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta hit his way, and his season was officially declared over.
"He is down and he will not be a player anymore for us this year," general manager Brian Cashman said in the middle of the clubhouse.
And Phelps, whose reaction on the mound once he realized Jeter was badly hurt was clearly one of distress, sat in silence stunned. This all happened after the Yankees staged an improbable comeback in the ninth inning, first starting with Ichiro Suzuki's two-run homer, then with Ibanez slamming another two-run shot off Tigers closer Jose Valverde to tie the game at 4-all.
Two innings later, it would all implode: first the game, then the captain's ankle. And the way Phelps seemed to be looking at it, he was accountable for both.
"We battle all night and we get the big home run from Raul," he said, "it was frustrating to give it back."
After being helped off the field by head trainer Steve Donohue and manager Joe Girardi, Jeter went in for X-rays. It was there, surrounded by Cashman and former manager Joe Torre and others, that Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad gave Jeter the news that his ankle was broken, and that his season was definitely over and it was not something he could play through.
"Doc had to emphasize that, because of who he was talking to.," Cashman said. "Derek is as tough as they come, but I think doc emphasized this is what you're dealing with."
By the time the media was allowed into the clubhouse, players already knew the dour news, and they weren't sugarcoating it. Normally adverse to admitting any sort of weakness and usually playing to script, the players went off it in the early morning hours of Sunday. Derek Lowe stood in one corner and surveyed the room.
"Look around ... there's nobody in here," he said. "There's no players in here; I'd imagine everyone is in the training room.
Andy Pettitte, who went 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs in the start, was with Jeter in the trainer's room after the game. He said he couldn't say much to his longtime teammate, but knew how bad it was.
"For him to lay down on that field, I knew something was broke or torn completely," Pettitte said. "When I saw him not get up, I knew he was done, really."
As did Girardi. He's seen Jeter get up, tell him he feels ok - even when he doesn't - countless times throughout his career and when he tried on Saturday to help him up, Jeter wouldn't have it: "No, do not carry me," is what he told Girardi.
This time, Jeter lost the argument. Girardi and Donohue helped Jeter off the field as the crowd chanted his name. And as soon as they disappeared into the dugout the entire ballpark went silent. An eerie feel to a strange night in which there were empty pockets of seats throughout this new stadium, and both the Yankees' offense and the crowd felt mostly punchless.
Lost in all the drama of Jeter's injury was Ibanez yet again coming through when needed most. That makes it two game-tying homers and one extra-inning one this week, and sadly, for Ibanez, Jeter and the Yankees, it all became moot.
"You run from the highs of highs coming back," Lowe said, "and to now lose the game and to lose the heart and soul of this team ... I hope guys will rally around him."
As Cashman spoke to an army of reporters engulfing him, across the clubhouse the rookie Phelps sat alone. A reporter approached and wanted to know what he saw, how this all felt.
"Gut-wrenching," he said.
And with that, he walked up and left the clubhouse. There wasn't a real need to stick around. Plus, the Yankees have to play in just a few hours. And for the first time in 16 years, they will play a postseason game without their captain.