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Down 2-0, Yankees welcome road trip
The New York Yankees’ next three games — if their season survives that long — will be on the road.
For them, that’s the best news of this American League Championship Series.
The Yankees must have been eager to leave the Bronx, and can you really blame them? The Tigers lead the series 2-0. New York’s team batting average is .192. Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano were booed at home, where scores of empty seats showed the fans’ frustration with a foundering offense.
The Yankees were so giddy to arrive in Detroit that they probably took a fall color tour, visited the Detroit Institute of Arts and taped their own commercial for the “Pure Michigan” ad campaign.
Detroit’s Comerica Park isn’t a hitter’s haven, which might actually be a good thing for the Yankees. The ever-so-close right-field wall at Yankee Stadium enticed too many all-or-nothing swings during the first two games. Comerica’s larger lawn — not to mention a Game 3 encounter with Justin Verlander on Tuesday night — should mean a more disciplined approach: Base hits are good. Walks are fine, too.
“Have better at-bats, get guys on base, not try to do too much,” Mark Teixeira stressed after Game 2. “If you need to take a walk, take a walk. If you need to move a guy over with a bunt, whatever it may be. Try to do some little things.
“All year, we’ve been hitting home runs, and they’re not coming right now. So let’s try to score some other ways, maybe.”
Teixeira acknowledged Comerica’s dimensions could work to the Yankees’ advantage, saying, “There’s no surprise that right field here (at Yankee Stadium) is shorter and left-handed hitters tend to pull more here. That’s just the way it is. When it’s going well, it works for you and you can score a lot of runs. Sometimes, you pull off the ball. Maybe the bigger (ballpark) will help us stay in the middle of the field.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Game 2 that his hitters need to make “adjustments.” (In fact, he used the word “adjustments” three times in a single answer.) But to Yankees batting coach Kevin Long, that doesn’t necessarily mean a change in philosophy.
“We know it’s a bigger park,” Long said of Comerica, “but we are who we are.”
The Tigers’ right-handed starters — Doug Fister in Game 1, Anibal Sanchez in Game 2 — mimicked the successful tactics of Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez in the first round: They generally pitched away from the Yankees’ left-handed batters, occasionally coming inside to keep the hitters honest. Sanchez used his full repertoire of four pitches Sunday in a 3-0 win. Verlander can be just as precise — with even more power.
Verlander will have a firm idea of how he wants to attack the Yankees’ hitters in Game 3, based on his many encounters with them over the years and the most recent scouting information. Verlander went 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts against the Yankees during the regular season.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Teixeira said of the Verlander matchup. “People think we’re crazy to say that. But it is a fun challenge. If you’re going to win a World Series, you’ve got to beat the best. And he’s the best right now. Their crowd is going to be rocking. They’re going to be cheering for their home team. We have an opportunity to do something special.”
Note the reference to the Tigers’ supportive fans. The Yankees haven’t enjoyed the same embrace this postseason. Their fans booed A-Rod during the Division Series against Baltimore, and the discontent has slowly spread to other players. Cano is in the throes of a particularly mystifying 0-for-26 slump — the longest such streak in Yankees postseason history.
He’s hearing about it, too.
“I don’t think it’s the home fans,” insisted Rodriguez, who is 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against righties in this postseason. “It has nothing to do with the home fans. A little change of scenery sometimes gives us a shot in the arm. Our fans haven’t had much to cheer about. You can’t blame them. You’ve got to blame us. If I was sitting there, I would be perplexed, too.
“We didn’t score any runs. What the hell are you going to cheer about?”
If and when the Yankees score against Verlander, Comerica Park will turn quiet. After a weekend in which they were unwelcome at their own home, the sound of silence would be most pleasing to their ears.
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