They’re not this bad:
First and foremost, the unit that’s giving them the most problems right now is right playing in a way that is reflective of their true talent level. The Yankees have struggled to score runs in every postseason game they’ve played so far, but they did have the league’s best offense during the season, and there’s plenty of room for realistic improvement in the near future. Most of all there’s Robinson Cano, who’s one of the very best hitters in baseball but mired in an 0-26 streak at the plate. He could catch fire at any time, and we all know how dangerous the Yankees can be when that happens. Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher may be lost causes, and losing Derek Jeter hurts a lot, but there’s still thunder in the Yankees’ lineup, and it seems highly unlikely that they could be this impotent for two whole playoff series.
Pitching, pitching, pitching:
Remember when great starting pitching won you championships? I’m thinking the Yankees would like to go back to those days, because they’ve gotten exceleent performances from their starters in these first seven postseason games. Only twice has a starter failed to complete seven innings, and each time they went 6.2 innings, and no one has given up more than three runs in a start. The bullpen has been fantastic too, especially the dup of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. However, like the offensive struggles, there’s no guarantee that this continues, though no one has really performed over their heads to any degree in this stretch. The Yankees simply have a very talented foursome of starters, and so far they’ve all come out and given the team quality performances. If that continues through the rest of the series, the Yankees will always be just a big hit or two away from a win.
The Tigers haven’t been much better:
How’s this for a fun fact: Detroit has scored just three runs in the series first two games when Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, or the starting pitcher was on the mound. Two runs came off of David Phelps in extra innings, and the other four came with Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, or Derek Lowe on the mound. That’s something of an indictment of Joe Girardi for using his second tier relievers at inopportune moments, but it also puts the Yankees’ offensive struggles into perspective a bit. Even better for the Yankees, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are doing their part for the Tigers. Yeah, I know, that sounds like a bad thing, but compare that to the Yankees’ offense and the performance of their best hitter, and then consider which offense is more likely to improve over the rest of the series. The Yankees can make up a significant amount of ground simply by having their best player play up to his talent level, while Detroit will need either very fortuitous sequencing or for someone in the lineup to get particularly hot. Not that that’s unlikely in the context of a short series, but there’s simply no reason to think that the Yankees can’t outhit Detroit over the rest of the week.
Games aren’t played on paper:
Here’s what makes the situation feel so bleak for the Yankees: in order to advance to the World Series, they’ll need to beat Justin Verlander at least once, plus all of their other cadre of starters as well. The only game in which they have the clear advantage in the pitching match up is in Game Four with C.C. Sabathia on the mound, but the Tigers will be sending their number two starter, Max Scherzer, to the mound for that one. Tonight’s contest between Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander and Yankees’ fourth starter Phil Hughes is much more lopsided, and probably feels like it’s already under the Tigers’ belt to a lot of people.
Thankfully, that’s not how baseball actually works, and the Yankees do have a very real shot tonight, as they do on any night. Most notably, the Yankees have actually had success against Verlander this year, winning two games in which he was the opposing starter, and collecting 25 hits in 20.1 innings against him. That’s not lighting him up or anything, but it’s most certainly not being dominated by the best pitcher in baseball. And on the other side of the ledger, Phil Hughes is returning to the park in which he pitched his best game of the season, a four hit, one run, complete game back on June 3rd. The opposing starter that Sunday afternoon?