NEW YORK — The next game at Yankee Stadium may well be on April 1 against the Red Sox for Opening Day. That’s how bad the Yankees have looked in the American League Championship Series.
Playing without an injured Derek Jeter, the despondent Yankees looked helpless at the plate and were beaten, 3-0, by the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
The Tigers won the first two games of the series and have Justin Verlander starting Game 3 in Detroit on Tuesday. Unless the Yankees find a way to win two games at Comerica Park this week, their season is over.
Only three teams have come back from a 2-0 LCS deficit to advance to the World Series, none since the Red Sox against the Yankees in 2004.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. I guess that’s kind of the exciting thing,” said Nick Swisher, one of the many Yankee hitters struggling since the start of the postseason. “We’ve got a chance to do something really special.”
Scoring a run would be a start. The Yankees are hitting .205 in seven postseason games with 20 runs. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez allowed three hits and struck out seven Sunday. The Yankees finished with four hits and advanced one runner as far as third base.
Afterward, even ancillary matters were bothering the Yankees.
Manager Joe Girardi, ejected in the eighth inning for arguing a blown call, called for the use of instant replay for all close plays.
Swisher complained about fans in right field yelling obscenities at him during the last two games.
Alex Rodriguez, the symbol of a $219 million roster turned sour, actually compared the Yankees to “a very volatile stock market” and predicted they would bounce back in Detroit.
“A lot of bad stuff has happened in a short amount of time,” Swisher said.
The Tigers were sitting back and smiling.
“We played good in a tough place to play against a great team,” manager Jim Leyland said. “You have to be very happy with that.”
Sanchez, a former Red Sox prospect, was brilliant. He left runners stranded in scoring position three times and held the Yankees down long enough for his teammates to figure out Hiroki Kuroda.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his major league career, Kuroda took a perfect game into the sixth inning and carried a shutout into the seventh.
The Tigers started that inning with a double to center by Quintin Berry. Miguel Cabrera’s single sent Berry to third. With one out, Delmon Young grounded to shortstop.
The Yankees had a chance for a double play but Robinson Cano fumbled the ball and got only the out at second.
Kuroda got two outs in the eighth inning before Omar Infante singled. After a single by Austin Jackson, Infante took a wide turn around second.
Swisher threw behind the runner and Cano tagged Infante out. But umpire Jeff Nelson called him safe. The inning went on and singles by Avisail Garcia and Cabrera gave Detroit two more runs.
Kuroda was charged with three runs despite allowing five hits and striking out 11 without a walk over 7⅔ innings.
Girardi, on his 48th birthday, argued the call twice during the inning and was ejected the second time.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort, I don’t, because he hustled to get to the play,” Girardi said. “But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it’s got to change. These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure.
“It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake.”
Nelson told a pool reporter that the call was incorrect after seeing it on replay.
“The hand did not get in before the tag,” he said.
Said Swisher, “That’s a monster play in that situation. It’s a lot different if it’s a one-run game than if it’s a three-run game.”
Given the New York offense, the call may not have mattered much. Cano was 0 for 4, grounding out each time. He is 2 for 32 in the postseason and hitless in his last 26 at-bats, a postseason record for the Yankees.
Swisher was 1 for 3 and is 4 for 26 in the playoffs. Rodriguez is 3 for 23 and Curtis Granderson 3 for 26 after striking out three more times.
“It’s not one guy. You win as a team and you lose as a team,” said Cano, who was the hottest hitter in the game as the regular season ended. “We have to go out there and play the game.”
Boos rained down on the home team, although they weren’t as loud as they could have been. Yankee Stadium was not sold out for the third consecutive postseason game.
Even the usually temperate Girardi is frustrated by his hitters.
“You have to make adjustments,” he said. “We know what they are doing to us. You have to make adjustments. They are not going to put it on a tee for us.”
The Yankees very much need the day off they will get on Monday. But Verlander will be waiting for them.
“We won two games here and we’re going home,” Jackson said. “You can’t do better than that.”