Nothing doing for Yanks without No. 2 in Game 2
NEW YORK -- Game 2 was played without No. 2, and yes, that did seem odd. The Yankees have played dozens of games without Derek Jeter over the years, rarely though has his absence been so conspicuous as it was Sunday afternoon. He wasn't even at the Stadium.
Game 2 was played without Yankees runs as well. That hardly seemed odd. Tigers 3, Yankees 0. Isn't that something? No Jeter and no runs led to a second straight no-win situation in the American League Championship Series. Do the simple subtraction: Game 2 minus No. 2. The result is zero, and zero is the most frequent and prominent figure in the Yankees' postseason.
The figure that appears most often in a set of numbers is the mode, you may recall. In the case of the Yankees in the 2012 postseason, it is the non-scoring mode. Zeros have been everywhere, as if a truck hauling tiny tires lost its load, and most noticeably on the scoreboard -- 20 out of a possible 21 innings in two games. So inept has the Yankees' offense been that scoreboard now qualifies as a misnomer. At this rate, the mound may be lowered again.
But zero isn't such a bad figure, you know; tennis calls it love. It does get a bad rap at times, though, not when Johan Santana pitches a no-hitter, Cal Ripken goes months without an error or Jeter puts three zeros to the right of a 3. But plenty of folks prefer something to nothing.
Those who prefer none in the hand to two in the bush probably have been entertained by the Yankees' performance thus far, the transformation from have-lots to have-nots. And now, to the delight of devotees of the null set, Justin Verlander looms in the Yankees' immediate future. He is perpetually armed with zeros. In a logical world, Verlander will kick the Yankees while they're down Tuesday night in Motown in Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, TBS). He has killer instinct, a mindset as well as an arsenal that could overwhelm the 1961 Yankees. Good pitching beats good hitting, and good power pitching can steamroll a batting order as unproductive as the Yankees' has been of late. Baseball routinely defies logic, but no one can say these Yankees are likely to touch up Verlander.
Probably, there'll be nothing to it.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants his players to rest Monday, even urging them to rest rather than attend his father's funeral. Will rest be enough to speed up Alex Rodriguez's bat or to enhance the chance of Robinson Cano making something more than powder-puff contact? A-Rod didn't play in Game 5 of the AL Division Series on Friday, and his subsequent swings have looked like those of Hank Aguirre, the old Tigers pitcher who batted .085 in 16 seasons.
Cano was hotter than July in his final nine regular-season games. Since, his bat has morphed into dry ice.
Curtis Granderson has been imitating Dave Kingman and Adam Dunn -- all or nothing at all. And Nick Swisher's performance is eliminating his already poor chance of re-signing with the Yankees.
How can the New York Yankees have Russell Martin batting fifth in a postseason game? How can the sixth, seventh and eighth batters strike out seven times in 10 at-bats? At least each one -- A-Rod, Granderson and Swisher reached base once. Cano didn't, nor did Jeter's replacement, Jayson Nix. But the Yankees shouldn't be counting on an understudy for offense.
Jeter's absence forced Girardi to ham and egg his batting order. But the bats have been eggshell fragile no matter where they've been deployed. After a season of relying on home runs, the manager says his team now needs to execute. Move runners, deliver a sacrifice fly or two. That might have worked Saturday night. The Yankees had opportunities to score; they left 13 runners on base. But on Sunday, they had a runner in scoring position in four innings. They left seven. Scoring position may require a more limiting definition if this continues.
The Yankees understandably grumbled about a potential out not achieved in the Tigers' two-run eighth. They had a point. A two-out call at second base by umpire Jeff Nelson kept the inning alive. The Tigers scored their second and third runs after the mistake. And of course, a greater deficit might have changed how the Yankees approached their two final turns at-bat. But they hardly resisted -- A-Rod's single, three strikeouts, a foul pop, a groundout and a flyout.
Moreover, there was nothing that prohibited the Yankees from achieving an out directly after the missed call. Instead, they squirmed and hollered. It was all for naught, naught as in zero. Their problems hitting have created a predicament. Two on the rocks and a Verlander chaser.
The Yankees players will rest and talk of regrouping and all that stuff. They might even believe what they say. But the truth is the player they normally would rally around is not around. Jeter will miss the rest of the season.
But that won't amount to much.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.