It wasn’t when he moved to his left. It wasn’t when he scooped the ball. It wasn’t even when he fell down.
The moment of realization came when Derek Jeter didn’t get up.
“If he’s not getting up, something’s wrong,” Joe Girardi said. “… Even when I went to the field and I was going to carry him in, he said, ‘No, do not carry me.’”
Jeter’s left ankle is broken. The guy who’s been playing on a bruised and battered left ankle for the better part of a month finally suffered an injury he couldn’t dismiss.
“It’s something you can’t play through,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Doc had to emphasize that because of who he’s talking to.”
Girardi pointed to the front of his ankle, an inch or so above his foot, to describe the exact location of the fracture. Jeter will need three months to recover and is expected to be ready for spring training. But spring training is a long way away, and after tonight, there’s very little that seems within reach.
“The job is to find a way over every obstacle that gets thrown our way,” Cashman said. “We’re in an opportunity with one team standing in our way to get to the World Series. No matter what the circumstances are, whether it’s rain or injuries, we have to find a way to move forward. Do I admit without a doubt this is a big loss? Yes. Is it something that we’re going to allow us to stop dreaming and achieve our goal? No. We’re not going to allow that.”
But my goodness, does the task ever seem like a tall one. The Yankees put together yet another ninth-inning rally, Raul Ibanez hit yet another unthinkable home run, and the Yankees had a chance to steal a win on a night when all hope seemed lost in the eighth inning. There was euphoria, and then there was defeat. As bitter as defeat can be.
“I think some people left us for dead when Mo went down, and here we are in the ALCS,” Girardi said. “And Jeet is going to tell us, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s what he’s going to tell us. I’m sad for him because I know how much he loves to play and play in these type of situation, but he would tell us, ‘Let’s go.’”
But go where? How? With who?
If the Yankees are going to pull this off and make a run at another World Series, they’re going to do it without Mariano Rivera and without Derek Jeter. The only Core Four member still active is the one who was retired last year. A loss like this — after the ninth-inning rally, the 12th-inning defeat, with Jeter unable to pick himself up out of the dirt — it’s as stunning and demoralizing a loss as you can imagine.
“I knew I wasn’t going to hear those words from him,” Girardi said. “There’s been some times where you see him limping pretty bad and I will ask him, ‘Are you okay?’ And he says, ‘I’m great, let’s go.’ That’s exactly what he says to me. He never tells me what’s bothering him, ever, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate his toughness and his grit. It’s, to me, a great example for everyone. … This guy knows how to handle it, and it’s disappointing that we’re not going to have him. But as I said, I know he would say, ‘Let’s go. I’m great.’”
But Jeter wasn’t great, and after a night like this, where do the Yankees go?
• The nuts and bolts of what’s next are clear: Jeter will go on the disabled list, Eduardo Nunez will be activated, and Cashman left no doubt that Jayson Nix will become the Yankees starting shortstop the rest of the way. “It’s a tough loss,” Cashman said. “But it’s not something we’re going to let derail us. It’s tough to lose any important player — and Derek has been obviously as important as anybody — but now he’s been taken out. Nix will go in there, and we have a lot of confidence in Nix.”
• Girardi said the fracture is in a place totally separate from Jeter’s other foot and ankle problems, but it’s hard to imagine this isn’t connected in some way. “It very well could be related,” Cashman said. “He’s been banged up with that foot, so I would think it is related.”
• Jeter will have additional tests, but as of tonight there were no plans for surgery. He might have surgery eventually, but there is only limited information at this point. The Yankees do not believe this is career-threatening. “It’s something the winter will take care of and he’ll be ready for us in spring training,” Cashman said.
• Jeter did not address the media. He got the diagnosis when he was in the trainers room with a small group of people including Cashman, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, Steve Donohue, Billy Eppler and Joe Torre. Jeter’s reaction upon hearing the news? “He didn’t have one,” Cashman said.
• Brett Gardner was among the first to reach Jeter after the injury, but he said there wasn’t much dialogue on the field before Donohue and Girardi got there. “When he went down initially, I thought it looked a little odd,” Gardner said. “And then when I saw he couldn’t get up and he flipped the ball to Robbie Cano — because he knew there was guy at second who could possibly go from third to home — you knew it wasn’t good.”
• Girardi’s postgame press conference was almost nothing but Jeter and was cut short before any real game related questions were asked. In a situation like this, it’s likely Girardi will be asked questions about his bullpen management tomorrow. For tonight, all of the conversation centered on Jeter.
• Girardi did say that he had not addressed the team to officially tell them Jeter’s ankle was broken, but word had spread to most players in the clubhouse. “You feel more sorry for the guys that get hurt, not yourself,” Mark Teixiera said. “You don’t feel sorry for the team, for yourself, you feel sorry for Derek and Mo when they go down and can’t contribute.”
• Just to be clear, both Girardi and Cashman said Alex Rodriguez will not play shortstop.
• Speaking of Rodriguez, he was pulled for a pinch hitter again tonight. “The first at-bat, he had a good at-bat,” Girardi said. “You can look at this game, and Peralta makes an outstanding play. They get a break. And Fister is skinny and I’m still trying to figure out how the ball hit him. There are other pitchers I can understand that (the ball) hit the guy up the middle, but not this guy. We had some bad breaks early, and had a bad break at the end too.”
• The key bullpen decisions that Girardi made tonight: He used Derek Lowe as the first man out of his bullpen, and after Lowe got through Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, he was left in to give up a home run to Delmon Young and a double to Jhonny Peralta. Girardi also elected to pull both Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson after just one inning. That’s what left David Phelps in the game for the decisive 12th inning.
• To his credit, Phelps was at his locker longer than anyone tonight, ready to answer any questions about his outing. But honestly, what was he going to say about this one? His part of the night was pretty crystal clear.
• Raul Ibanez’s game-tying home run in the ninth was the 114th home run in postseason history in the ninth inning or later that tied the game or gave a team the lead. Ibanez is only the second player to do so three times in his career — the other is Johnny Bench — and Ibanez is the only player to pull it off three times in a single postseason. Ibanez is also the only player with three home runs in the ninth inning or later of a single postseason.
• In 42 previous ALCS matchups, the team that’s won Game 1 has won the series 60 percent of the time. Since the introduction of the seven-game format in 1985, the Game 1 winner has won the series 54 percent of the time. In seven of the past 12 ALCS, the team that lost Game 1 went on to win the series.
• This was only the second ALCS Game 1 to reach the 12th inning. The first was in 1969.
• Miguel Cabrera has reached base safely in all 17 of his postseason games with the Tigers. That’s the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind Hank Greenberg’s 18-game streak from 1934 through 1945.
• Andy Pettitte is the sixth player to appear in a postseason game under the age of 24 and at the age of 40 or older. The others are Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.
• Pettitte on his start: “I felt good tonight. Obviously I wish I could have shut them down and given our guys a chance to get on the board first.”
• On the double that got past Nick Swisher in the 12th, Swisher said he lost the ball in the lights. “I got a great jump on it, man, and it went up in the lights and I just went completely blind,” Swisher said. “It’s a helpless feeling.”
• Jeter’s second-inning single gave him 200 career postseason hits.
• Doug Fister allowed 11 baserunners through 6.1 innings but didn’t allow a run. He’s the first player in postseason history to allow 11 or more runners in fewer than seven innings without allowing a run. The only pitcher to allow 11 or more baserunner in seven innings without allowing a run in a postseason game is Johan Santana, who did so against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS.
• Final word will go to Teixeira: “We have to have guys step up. That’s kind of been the theme all year. If one team is used to having guys step in to take someone’s place, it’s us. We’ve had to deal with it all year. It’s really disappointing to have Derek out of the lineup. We know how much this game means to him, especially the playoffs mean so much to him. We probably feel more for him than anyone else who would go out.”
Associatd Press photos