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At last, it happened. The Yankees were the victims of not just one, but two blown calls in postseason games. Will that mean replay review? Um... maybe.
Anibal Sanchez was brilliant, and Hiroki Kuroda was unlucky, as the Tigers completely shut down the Yankees' offense.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees didn't score, again.
And the umpires kept on helping the Tigers. After Ichiro Suzuki led off with an easy fly to center, Robinson Cano came up and took two strikes from left-hander Phil Coke. The thing was, though, both pitches were probably a few inches outside. That's just how it's been going for Canó lately. He got robbed by an umpire at first base in Game 1, and this time he hit Coke's third pitch to Prince Fielder, who tagged first base for the out. Canó, one of the best players in the American League, is now 2 for 32 (.063) in the postseason.
Heading to the ninth inning, it's still 3-0 Tigers ... and we'll still wondering who will fill the closer's role in Game 2, after Jose Valverde's meltdown in Game 1.
Umpires know the Rules of Baseball, terribly complicated as they are, incredibly well.
But sometimes they get into trouble making a call that looks, at least on TV, easy enough for your or I to make.
With Omar Infante on first base and two outs in the top of the seventh, Austin Jackson lined a single into right field. Infante had designs on third base, but thought better of it and scrambled back to second. Too late, though. Unless you're second-base umpire Jeff Nelson ...
Nelson clearly missed this one, and it's not clear how or why. Infante's poor baserunning should have cost the Tigers a great scoring chance, but it didn't. Instead, Nelson's error cost the Yankees a run when rookie Avisail García parachuted a single into right field, with Infante coming around to score.
That brought Joe Girardi out of the dugout to remove left-hander Boone Logan from the game. And with that task complete, Girardi resumed his early argument about the play at second base, and before long drew an ejection from the proceedings. Girardi obviously wasn't going to get a judgment call overturned, so he's either exceptionally frustrated or hoping, in the late stages of a terribly important game, to light a fire under his moribund hitters.
It'll have to be one hell of a fire. With Joba Chamberlain in the game, Miguel Cabrera drove an RBI single into right field to give the Tigers a three-run cushion. Logan got one batter, and Chamberlain got one batter. Lefty sidearmer Clay Rapada came in for his one batter -- Prince Fielder -- and got ahead in the count, but wound up walking him. Finally, righty sidearmer Cody Eppley came in for his one batter -- Delmon Young -- and struck him out to end the interminable half-inning and the modest carnage.
So the Yankees are down 3-0, and down to their last six outs.
I'm not sure when the shutdown inning became a thing. There was probably one announcer who kept checking on it, and he started a somewhat silly trend. Most innings are shutdown innings because, all things being equal, the odds will always favor a team not scoring. It doesn't make sense to pay special attention to the total of shutdown innings over a full season.
But it's still something to note in an individual game, I suppose. And in the bottom of the seventh, Anibal Sanchez had a shutdown inning after the first Tigers run. It wasn't that easy, either. Alex Rodriguez started the inning with a line drive! Right to Andy Dirks in left. Because, well, that's the deal he's made with whatever celestial being he got his talent from in the first place.
After that, though, Curtis Granderson worked a five-pitch walk, and he'd later steal second with one out. But that put a runner in scoring position for Nick Swisher, who has been awful with runners on base in the playoffs. He waved through a change for strike three, making him 1-for-34 with runners in scoring position for his career. Wow.
Jayson Nix struck out to end the inning, and Granderson was stranded. Through seven innings, the Tigers still lead, 1-0.
But in the top of the seventh, rookie Quintin Berry drove a ball over Curtis Granderson's head in center field and the ball bounced over the fence for an automatic double that seems, at the moment, the biggest hit in this game ...
Which of course brought up Prince Fielder, as it has all season long. But Kuroda somehow notched his ninth strikeout, with Fielder waving at a pitch in the dirt that would have been ball four to load the bases.
Which brought up Delmon Young, Game 1's hitting star (for the Tigers), with Kuroda and the Yankees looking for an inning-ending double play. They almost got it, but first this happened:
If that Yankees fan gets out of the way, Teixeira almost certainly makes that catch; whether Berry would have tried to tag up and score from third, we don't know. With new life, Young poked a grounder toward the shortstop hole. Jayson Nix fielded the ball and made a clean throw to Robinson Canó at second base, but Canó lost control of the ball while trying to throw. Young was safe as Berry scored the game's first run.
Kuroda escaped more damage when Andy Dirks hit yet another ground ball. But the way the Yankees have been going, The Tigers' single run seems like a lot.
The bottom of the sixth inning was the Anibal Sanchez show. But not in the way you'd think. It was a strange show, more like Twin Peaks. When the credits rolled, it was still a scoreless game.
The inning began with a Sanchez error, putting Ichiro Suzuki on first, where he was likely to start some mayhem. Robinson Cano grounded back to Sanchez for the second out, but it wasn't quite so simple; Sanchez made a 45-foot horseshoe toss that just clipped Cano, who wasn't running especially hard. If Cano was running hard, does he make it?
Dunno. Probably not. Probably not the best time to saunter through the bag, though.
After intentionally walking Raul Ibanez, the threat ended with Jhonny Peralta making a nice play on a grounder from Russell Martin. Six innings down, still no runs. Sanchez is at 89 pitches for the day, so he'll probably get a couple more innings.
And then ... probably not Valverde time. But it could be! That'd be hilarious, at least.
In the five innings of Game 2, the Tigers hit exactly one ball out of the infield. And that was an easy fly ball.
But Jhonny Peralta, leading off the sixth inning, made it two balls out of the infield when he ripped a grounder into center field. Oh, and it was also the Tigers' first base hit of any sort.
Peralta would have been erased on a double play, but Kuroda -- a Gold Glover in Japan -- deflected Alex Avila's grounder, and so shortstop Jayson Nix was forced to throw to first base to retire Avila, with Peralta safe on second. The ground balls kept coming, though; Omar Infante grounded to third, and Austin Jackson grounded to shortstop.
So that's two balls out of the infield, one hit, and no runs for the Detroit Tigers.
But of course the Yankees still haven't scored, either. So in the bottom of the sixth, it's still Yankees 0, Tigers 0.
Hiroki Kuroda has pitched on three days' rest exactly once in his major-league career, but he came in the second game as a reliever. He allowed three earned runs in an inning and a third, but that probably doesn't count.
He's pitching on three days' rest today, and he's still perfect through five innings. In the top of the fifth, Prince Fielder popped out on the second pitch he saw, and Delmon Young struck out on a 2-2 slider out of the zone.
The Tigers' best chance for a hit came when Andy Dirks hit a sharp grounder up the middle, but Robinson Cano was there, and he handled it without a problem.
Kuroda has thrown 59 pitches through five, with 39 of them for strikes. The three days' rest thing? Not an issue.
Of course, on the other side, Anibal Sanchez is pitching pretty well in his own right. Just another pitcher-friendly game at the spacious new Yankee Stadium.
Here's a newsflash for you: Raúl Ibañez isn't real fast. Entering Game 2, he'd played in 41 postseason games without stealing a single base. Or getting caught trying to steal a base, either.
But after Ibañez led off the fourth inning of this scoreless affair with a single, Girardi sent him. Considering how things have been going for the Yankee attack lately, you can imagine what happened ...
Granted, it was probably a hit-and-run rather than a straight steal. It just didn't work out, and so Ibañez got thrown out trying to steal for the first time since July of 2010; he might have forgotten what that felt like. And given the play, you might wonder if Joe Girardi has forgotten what it's like to score a run before the ninth inning.
Heading to the fifth inning, Game 1 is still scoreless. And you wonder if we're looking at another dramatic ending...
The good news: sweet, sweet contact. The Tigers actually put the ball in play during the top of the fourth inning, including a ball that looked like it was ticketed for center field off the bat.
The bad news: Nary a runner. That ball that looked like it had a chance to go to the outfield? Shortstop Jayson Nix was hanging out just over second base before the pitch, positioned perfectly.
Kuroda has thrown 49 pitches through four innings, with 32 of those thrown for strikes. He's struck out seven of the 12 hitters he's faced.
Four days ago, Hiroki Kuroda threw 105 pitches.
Today he's pitching Game 2 on "short" rest, which of course is something that pitchers almost never do during the regular season, and managers generally send their guys to the mound on short rest only in October, when they're under duress. Because the numbers aren't encouraging.
Well, here are some numbers: Through three innings, Hiroki Kuroda has faced nine Detroit Tigers and he's struck out seven of them. Here's the last pitch of the third inning, to Omar Infante:
Of course Kuroda can't keep this up. But just in case you're wondering, a) there have been two no-hitters in postseason history, and b) the record for strikeouts in a postseason game is 17 (Bob Gibson, 1968 World Series).
For what feels like the fifth straight playoff game in Yankee Stadium, both starting pitchers have opened the game on fire. Not literally. That's just stupid. But Hiroki Kuroda has been especially impressive, striking out five of the first six batters he faced, and he hasn't allowed a runner.
Anibal Sanchez has allowed three runners -- a double, a walk, and an infield hit, but the Yankees have stranded all three. In the bottom of the second, Jayson Nix hit a la(y)ser to the left-field warning track, but it was hauled in by Andy Dirks.
The TBS broadcast crew pointed out Hiroki Kuroda's seemingly drastic day/night splits this year -- he had a 1.99 ERA during the day and a 3.76 ERA at night. A Yankee Stadium quirk? A deceptive delivery that partially disappears in bright light?
Or maybe it's sample size. It's probably sample size. It's just sample size. Carry on.
It's not apparent that Anibal Sanchez's play to end the bottom of the first inning actually saved a run; the shortstop might well have made the play if Sanchez hadn't.
It sure was nifty, though:
Hiroki Kuroda didn't show off his glove in the top of the second, but he did rack up his fifth strikeout already, despite pitching on short rest today. And so Game 2 is still scoreless, heading to the bottom of the second.
After Derek Jeter's season-ending injury in Game 1, Yankees manager Joe Girardi immediately proclaimed that Jayson Nix was going to take over at shortstop. Nix is something of an unknown, though -- what kind of shortstop is he?
Well, he's not really a shortstop. At least, he wasn't for much of his professional career. Here are the number of games Nix has started at short over his career in the minors and majors combined over the years:
That's 90 professional games -- 35 of which were in the majors. The 29-year-old Nix has spent much more time at third and second over his career, so it's still something of an experiment to install him as a starting shortstop.
There's nothing shakier than single season UZR, unless you're talking about partial-season UZR, but it doesn't hurt to look. Nix's UZR/150 in his time at short in the majors: -33.0. That's a half-run better than B.J. Upton at short for his career! Which ... huh.
The season-ending injury to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter means adjustments in New York's lineup, and here is manager Joe Girardi's starting nine for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, with right-hander Anibal Sanchez starting for the Detroit Tigers:
Sanchez made one start against the Yankees after he was acquired from the Marlins, August 8 at Comerica Park, and the visiting New Yorkers pounded him all over the yard; Curtis Granderson hit a home run.
Girardi has obviously elected to keep Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, even though he's 4 for 47 in his last 10 postseason games, and hasn't hit a home run since last April.*
Of course, Rodriguez isn't the only slumping Yankee, and so Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are still in the lineup but even further down than Rodriguez, even with a right-hander on the mound.
The Yankees will counter Sanchez with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is going on three days rest.
Saturday's epic Game 1 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Yankees ended at 1 a.m. ET. Nine hours later, Tigers manager Jim Leyland already is up and going, and has posted his team's lineup for Game 2:
This lineup will be facing Yankees righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who is going on three days' rest after another possible starter, David Phelps, had to throw in relief Saturday night. Kuroda faced the Tigers twice during the 2012 regular season, allowing five earned runs in 13⅓ innings (3.38 ERA) and picking up a pair of no-decisions (the Yankees split the two games). Current Tigers are hitting .317 (26-for-82) against Kuroda with four home runs (two by Miguel Cabrera, one each by Alex Avila and Gerald Laird).
The Tigers will counter with righthander Anibal Sanchez, who is going on a normal four-days' rest.
The New York Yankees try to pull even in the ALCS with the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 Sunday at 4 p.m., but they'll have to do it without injured star Derek Jeter.