DETROIT – Mystique and Aura, longtime postseason visitors to the Bronx, were no-shows in the American League Championship Series. So were the New York Yankees’ bats.
The Detroit Tigers are going to the World Series and the Yankees are going home for the winter after one of the most stunning thumpings they’ve ever absorbed in their storied history. The Tigers roared to a four-game sweep with Thursday’s emphatic 8-1 win at Comerica Park that sent them to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2006.
Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth, while Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers in a four-run fourth inning against CC Sabathia that made it 6-0 and ended any suspense.
The Tigers outscored the Yankees 19-6 in the series and outhit them 46-22 (including 16-2 in the clincher). Their starting pitchers had an 0.66 earned run average.
“If someone would have told me we would sweep the Yankees, I would have told them they were crazy,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who’s heading to the Series for the third time in his career. “A little luck, some pretty good pitching obviously, and a couple of hits at the right time, and sometimes you get on a roll that’s pretty good.”
Other than scoring four runs in the ninth inning to send Game One into extra innings, the Yankees never got on any roll. They hit .188 in the postseason – an all-time record low for any team that played at least seven games – and just .157 in the ALCS. The crowd of 42,477 spent the ninth inning waving white towels and chanting “Sweep.”
The roar reached a crescendo when Prince Fielder squeezed Jayson Nix’s pop-up to first for the final out. The Yankees batted in 39 innings in the series. They scored in just three of them.
“It is extremely difficult,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “You work a long time to get to this point every year and to have it end abruptly ... is really, really difficult. We didn’t swing the bats. It wasn’t one guy, it wasn’t two guys, it was a bunch of guys.”
Like Girardi said, there were plenty of culprits. Robinson Cano went 3 for 40 in the postseason, Nick Swisher went 5 for 30 and Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts. Eric Chavez went 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts, playing mostly in place of Alex Rodriguez. Swisher’s RBI double in the sixth scored Eduardo Nunez, who tripled to break up Scherzer’s no-hitter. That was it for the offense.
A-Rod, the flashpoint player of the series, went 0 for 2 in the game to finish the series 1 for 9 and the playoffs 3 for 25. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth with two men on and flied to center against Drew Smyly. He grounded to short in the ninth off Phil Coke.
The A-Rod drama, which featured two benchings, was no comedy to the Yankees but high drama to everyone else watching the series. Rodriguez took more than his share of the blame.
“The thing about this whole situation is that if I’m playing my game, Joe has no choice but to play me,” Rodriguez said. “And if I’m not playing my game, then he’s open up for options.
“I know it’s difficult for Joe. I know Joe didn’t want to sit me. It’s something that was not easy for him. Again, if I do what I do, Joe doesn’t have a choice. Neither does [General Manager] Brian Cashman.”
Rodriguez gave a solid “no” when asked if he thought he had played his last game as a Yankee.
“I don’t think so. I love New York City and I love everything about being a Yankee,” he said. “The highs are very high, the lows are extremely low. There’s no question the last few weeks were extremely difficult. ... I love New York City. I plan to be here and come back and be productive for this team for a while. I’m not a guy to make excuses. I had ample opportunity to do my job. I wish I had more.
“One, I’ve never thought about going to another team. My focus is here. Let’s make that very, very clear. No. 2, I don’t expect to be mediocre. I expect to do what I’ve done for a long time.”
The Derek Jeter-less Yankees were swept for the first time since dropping three straight to Kansas City in a best-of-five ALCS in 1980. Their last 4-0 whitewash was against Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series. They became just the fifth team in history to never take a lead in a seven-game series, the first since the Cardinals were blasted by Boston in the 2004 World Series.
“There are a lot of good hitters in that room,” Girardi said. “And to be able to shut a lot of them down is very surprising to me.”
The Tigers won their 11th AL pennant and became the first team to beat the Yankees in three straight postseason series (starting with the division series in 2006 and 2011).
“It’s definitely disappointing, embarrassing,” said Sabathia, who was torched for six runs and 11 hits in 3∏ innings.
“You’re crushed,” Rodriguez said. “You work eight months to get to this point – and I know there’s a lot of teams that would love to be in this position in the ALCS and have an opportunity to go to the World Series – but we just came up short.”