The strike zone seemed tight tonight. Joe Girardi said so, Russell Martin said so, and CC Sabathia said so. But not one of them seemed to think that was the reason the Tigers won this game and put the Yankees on the verge of elimination.
“I’m not going to sit here and say it was the umpire’s fault,” Sabathia said. “I just didn’t make pitches when I needed to… I felt great, felt fine. I thought my fastball command was better than it has been. It’s just not making pitches when I need to, whether that be a breaking ball or changeup or whatever it was. They were just fouling pitches off.”
Martin said it was the outer half of the plate against right-handers that was causing frustration. Those were borderline pitches, he said, and sometimes Sabathia gets those calls. Tonight he didn’t. He walked three batters in the first inning, higher than his walk total for two-thirds of his starts this season. He finished with six walks, more than he’s had since early 2010.
“We just want the pitches that are on the plate to be called strikes, and a few times I felt like there were some borderline pitches,” Martin said. “But it’s a tough job back there for an umpire, and I thought he was consistent. He wasn’t calling that pitch, and he didn’t really change his mind… I felt like (Sabathia) had the same stuff that he normally does. When I see he has the same stuff, it’s just the other team is doing their job and battling and fighting.”
Sabathia threw 28 pitches in the first inning, which is more than he threw in two innings on Friday. Ultimately, he was limited. He limited in his ability to put hitters away, and he was limited in his ability to work deep into the game, two things that make Sabathia who he is.
Now the Yankees will turn to A.J. Burnett, an all-or-nothing starter for an all-or-nothing game.
“It’s tough,” Sabathia said. “I put us in a bad spot. Next time I get the ball, I’ll try to go out and help us win. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.
Here’s a little bit of Martin. Sorry, but audio was tough to get in that cramped clubhouse.
• Brett Gardner has had a couple of big hits this series, and his two-out, two-run double off Justin Verlander felt like a huge hit. For just a moment, momentum seemed to swing heavily in the Yankees favor. “We were able to tie it up, but it wasn’t enough,” Gardner said. “Tough loss for us, but come out tomorrow be ready to go… We’ve won two games in a row a lot of times this year.”
• A half inning after Gardner’s big hit, came Delmon Young’s big blow. Rafael Soriano had already gotten three outs — and sat for a half inning in the middle of them — when Young came to the plate. It was the first time all year that he’d pitched more than an inning. “I was ready today for that situation because I knew the situation of the game,” Soriano said. “I was going in maybe for the last two outs of that inning and then come back and try to get the next inning. I was mentally ready, prepared for that situation.”
• Soriano on the pitch to Young: “To me that was a good pitch. I mean, nothing I can do now. It was a good location, and he hit it out. So we just got to come back tomorrow.”
• Girardi on using Soriano for more than three outs: “He was well rested. He missed the location. That’s going to happen. He went out and got the next couple of guys out. He was fine.”
• Alex Rodriguez drew two walks tonight, but he still doesn’t have a hit this series. Mark Teixeria struck out twice and is hitting .091 these three games. “I think we can win no matter what,” Rodriguez said. “You’ve got to throw statistics out the window in the playoffs. The only statistic that matters is winning games. And I think both Tex and I are prepared for big at-bats. The playoffs come down to a few key at bats, and when those at-bats come, we’ll be there.”
• Martin took a 100-mph fastball to the ribs. “It stings,” he said. “95. 100. Who cares?”
• Girardi on the decision to stick with Sabathia in the sixth: “They had left, right, left. That’s why I left CC in there, because of that situation. I had
Soriano up in the fifth. But Soriano was coming in after the catcher.”
• Sabathia’s six walks were the most allowed by a Yankees pitcher in the postseason since Orlando Hernandez who walked six in Game 1 of the ALDS in 1999.
• Two hits for Jeter extends his Major League record, giving him 189 postseason hits.
• Good call by Jim Leyland tonight, choosing to start Ramon Santiago, who had two hits tonight, one of which drove in the first Tigers run, and one of which put them in the lead 3-2.
• Girardi said he remains fully committed to Burnett getting the start tomorrow. “A.J.’s capable or shutting guys down,” Jeter said. “Hopefully tomorrow he’s ready to go, as we know he will be, and gives us an opportunity. We’ve got to score some runs… We’ve won a game before and that’s the mindset we have to have. This game’s over with, done with, we’ll be back here later on tonight and try to win a game.”
Just a quick, late announcement: With the Yankees on the brink, I’m going to host a chat tomorrow at noon. Stop by if you can. See you then.
Associated Press photos