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I was lucky enough to attend both Games 1 and 2 of the Yankees-Tigers ALDS, and I will say, there was just a different vibe in the stands when it came to Game 2 versus the way it felt in Game 1. The crowd in Game 1 was amazing, whereas in Game 2 they were a bit lethargic, just like the play of the Yankees in each case. Game 1 was an awesome display of great defense, pitching and hitting. Jeter threw out Alex Avila at the plate in a 1-1 game in the 5th, Ivan Nova looked unstoppable and the crowd went absolutely nuts when Cano put the game seemingly out of reach with a grand slam in the 6th, after he just missed a homer in the 5th to give the Yankees the lead.
As for Game 2…
When I saw Max Scherzer was on the mound for the Tigers, I knew he could be tough if he was on, but I figured the Yankees could get a solid game out of Freddy Garcia and that he might be able to match Scherzer. Garcia didn’t pitch badly, but Scherzer easily outpitched him, not allowing a hit until the 6th. Garcia kept them in the game, allowing 4 runs in 5 and 1/3, but the home run in the 1st to Miguel Cabrera took the crowd out of it early, and Max Scherzer made sure they couldn’t get back into it while he was on the mound.
By the time Scherzer was taken out of the game in the 7th, it just didn’t feel like the Yankees were going to pull this one out. When I say “feel”, I mean there is literally a buzz in a Yankees playoff game in the Bronx when things are going well. That buzz was there for all of Game 1, but it was noticeably absent for much of Game 2, mostly because Miguel Cabrera killed it early, and Max Scherzer kept it away. Maybe part of it was because this was a game on a Sunday afternoon rather than a Saturday night, but not getting a hit until the 6th is tough, no matter when the game takes place. The loudest my section got before the 8th inning was when they found out that the Eagles and Cowboys had both lost. That wasn’t a joke. High fives all around for the NFL scores, nothing for the lethargic Yankees. I’m being dead serious when I say this: the guy sitting next to me fell asleep in the 6th, and left in the 7th when it started to rain. I guarantee you no one fell asleep during Game 1. No one. Not even the little kids up way past their bedtimes.
Combine the Yankees’ lack of hitting and mediocre pitching with the fact that it started to rain in the 7th, it seemed like all hope for getting the fans into this one had been lost. But just as the rain tapered off (there was never a rain delay, but the fans did flee for cover), the Yankees started to turn it on. It all started when Curtis Granderson led off the bottom of the 8th with a home run. Game on. It wasn’t the fact that there was now a 3-run deficit instead of a 4, it just felt different. That “buzz” started to come back, and the Yankees were on the board. By the time the bottom of the 9th rolled around, the Tigers lead was back up to 4, as Luis Ayala allowed Brandon Inge to score on a Don Kelly single.
The Tigers brought in Jose Valverde for the 9th, as you would expect, even though it wasn’t technically a save situation, and he sure made it interesting. First pitch: Nick Swisher jacks one out to right, the crowd starts going nuts. It’s 5-2 when Jorge Posada steps to the plate. He got a bigger ovation from the fans each time he stepped to the plate than any other Yankee (his contract is up, and it doesn’t look like he is coming back), and he delivered this time, hitting his first career postseason triple (seriously). That “buzz” I’ve been talking about? Oh yeah, it was back, and in full force. The Yankees looked set to knock Jose Valverde and Tigers down and finish the comeback. After Valverde plunked Russell Martin, the Yankees had the tying run at the plate with no outs. Just after Andrew Jones hit a sac fly to knock in Posada, Jeter stepped up and the Yankees looked ready to tie this one up; but Valverde struck Jeter out, and it started to pour again. This time every fan stayed in their seat to watch Curtis Granderson draw a walk, and set up last night’s hero, Robbie Cano, as the winning run. The comeback wasn’t meant to be, as Cano grounded out to second, sucking the life out of the soaking wet stadium.
To put it simply, Max Scherzer pitched great, and held the Yankees off long enough so that their late comeback attempt fell short. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the last time the Yankees and Tigers met in the ALDS was in 2006, and the Yankees left the Bronx tied 1-1, but they never returned, losing both games in Detroit. If the Yankees were to not return this time around, it would very likely mean that the last thing Jorge Posada ever did in Yankee Stadium was hit a clutch triple in the bottom of the 9th, the first of his storied postseason career. What a badass.