Obviously these next few days are going to be spent looking back on what exactly happened this week, and what might happen going forward. For now, there was only disappointment in a Yankees clubhouse that not so long ago celebrating a division championship.
“It’s terrible,” Joe Girardi said. “We only accomplished one goal when the season ended. We had to fight like crazy to get there. It’s a really empty feeling. It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room, and it hurts.”
The problem was the offense, but that was largely a problem of timing rather than raw production. The Yankees outscored the Tigers 28-17 this series, and 28 runs were the second-most in franchise history for a single division series. The Yankees scored at least nine runs in each of their two wins.
Problem was, they scored a total of nine runs in their three loses. The Tigers won those three games by a total of four runs.
“I tell you every time you go to the playoffs, it’s about pitching,” Derek Jeter said. “You’re not going to sit back and hit home runs, score 10 runs. I mean, we scored a lot of runs two days ago, but it was really one inning. You don’t just come out here and take BP in the playoffs. Teams you’re facing have good pitching. That’s why they’re at this point. So you can get away with a lot of things in the regular season that you can’t get away with in the playoffs.”
As in, a team can get away with its fourth, fifth and sixth hitters going a combined 9-for-55 during a five-game stretch in the regular season, but that doesn’t work in a five-game series. Of course the Tigers pitching has a lot to do with it, and of course guys like Max Scherzer and Joaquin Benoit deserve plenty of credit, but Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher were clearly frustrated (or frustrating, depending on your point of view).
When those three failed to get a big hit with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, that was basically the turning point of the game and the story of the series.
“It was 3-1 and I said, ‘I’m going to get a pitch to crush right here,’” Teixeira said. “You almost start thinking about the bases clearing, the crowd cheering. I walked there, but it wasn’t enough. Not enough to get the job done… If we were one at-bat better, we might win the game. If we get one hit with the bases loaded, but every single game you play, there’s going to be five or 10 things you can look at and say, ‘If we did this’ or ‘If we did that.’ Unfortunately, we had a couple of those this series.”
As I said, I’m sure the next few days will be spent diving deeper into how the Yankees got here and where the go from here. For now, though, this is the end of the road.
“Some days you just get beat,” Girardi said.
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
• Ivan Nova said his forearm got tight in the second inning. He didn’t feel it at all during the first inning, so it was a non-factor on the home runs. “We didn’t like the way the ball was coming out of his hand,” Girardi said. “I think it was directly related to that. Some of his fastballs were cutting, and we never saw that. So I had to make a change, and I had to, you know, try to get our bullpen through it.”
• Nova said he’ll go for an MRI tomorrow.
• Nova was the first Yankees rookie to start a winner-take-all postseason game since Mel Stottlemyre in the 1964 World Series against St. Louis. “It’s hard,” Nova said. “We lost and we’ve got to go home now. You don’t want to be in this situation. You want to keep going, going to the World Series.”
• Rodriguez hasn’t been productive since coming back from knee surgery, but he said health was a non-factor this series. “Everything this postseason is on me,” he said. “Let’s make that crystal clear. There’s no excuses for what happened these five games. I was healthy enough to do whatever I needed to do.”
• The Yankees went down in order in the ninth inning. Really, their last gasp was the ball that Jeter drove to the wall in the eighth inning. Off the bat, I thought he might have hit it out. It would have been a go-ahead, two-run homer with Mariano Rivera coming in to shut the door in the ninth. “I thought it had a chance,” Jeter said. “It was too high, but you never know here.”
• CC Sabathia seemed especially dejected at his locker. He’d never pitched in relief and said he tried not to change his usual approach. “I try not to,” he said. “I tried to get ahead with the fastball, and that didn’t really work, so I went to my secondary pitches.”
• Sabathia had gone 370 consecutive appearances in the regular season and postseason before finally pitching out of the bullpen. Among the pitchers whose first career relief appearance came in the postseason, Sabathia had the third-longest streak. Mike Mussina went 400 starts before pitching in relief in the 2003 ALCS, and John Smoltz went 380 starts before his first relief appearance in the 1999 NLCS.
• Sabathia wouldn’t commit one way or the other about his opt-out. “I can’t even wrap my head around that right now,” he said. “I’m just thinking about what I didn’t do to help us win. In the next couple of days, next couple of weeks I’ll think about that and we’ll see what happens.”
• Of course Sabathia felt he could have pitched longer. “It was just up to them,” he said. “I felt great. If you give me the option, I’ll pitch as long as I can. It was just up to them.”
• Robinson Cano set a Yankees division series record with nine RBI. The previous record was seven by Paul O’Neill. It’s the most RBI by a Yankee in a single postseason series — any round — since Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams had 10 each in the 2004 ALCS.
• Rivera lowered his career postseason ERA to 0.70, the lowest mark all-time for a pitcher with at least 30 postseason innings. This was his 96th career postseason game, passing Kenny Lofton for sole possession of seventh place on baseball’s all-time list (pitcher or position player).
• Rivera threw eight pitches this series and got four outs. All of his pitches were strikes.
• Weird situation with Benoit and the band-aid on his face. Jim Leyland said it was an in-grown hair, and the band-aid was to keep it from being infected. Girardi asked the home plate umpire to have it removed. “I’m not trying to play a mind game or anything,” Girardi said. “But it was pretty big band-aid and it was somewhat distracting, I think. It’s hard not to look at. And I’m sure he had a legitimate reason, and it’s not something I necessarily wanted to do, but to me it would have been a distraction.”
• This once, the final word goes to the opposing manager: “The Yankees are so good that I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me a little extra satisfaction to be able to do it here in the fifth game,” Leyland said. “I don’t mean that disrespectfully, I mean that respectfully. It gave me a great thrill to be able to do it here in Yankee Stadium in Game 5. Unbelievable. I was just talking to Dave Dombrowski, other than the American League pennant and that time in the World Series, this will be a game I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Associated Press photos