Slumps, Not Umps to Blame for Yankees' 2-0 Deficit in ALCS

Yahoo Contributor Network

Suddenly, Alex Rodriguez isn't the only postseason choke artist on the New York Yankees we're acknowledging. If ever the three-time AL MVP felt lonely for being an easy target of criticism at this time of year, he now has plenty of company in that regard.

Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, together with Rodriguez, form a quartet of offensive futility that may appropriately lead to the Detroit Tigers completing a four-game sweep in the 2012 ALCS. Collectively, they are 3-for-32 (.094) vs. Detroit and 12-for-107 (.112) overall in this year's postseason.

You'd think that Detroit started Justin Verlander clones in Games 1 and 2, 6-4 and 3-0 wins, respectively, for the Tigers. Doug Fister (Game 1) and Anibal Sanchez (Game 2) were that good this past weekend, combining for 13 1/3 shutout innings. Outside of Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez's two-run, ninth-inning home runs in Game 1, the Yankees haven't scored in any other frame of this best-of-seven.

Did Cano apply that tag on Omar Infante in the eighth inning Sunday on time? Clearly, and by about a foot at that. But bad calls aside, you knew that the Yankees' feast-or-famine scoring could become a problem in the playoffs, that they'd struggle to bully their way to blowouts once, as I warned earlier this year, the scoria of big-league pitching gave way to the best-of-the-best arms in October.

Inferior pitching staffs that power-hitting lineups fatten up on from April to September are no more. Every pitcher makes mistakes that get lined into the gap, that leave the ballpark. But solid and great pitchers don't make them nearly as often, so the Yankees' offensive slump has as much to do with them as the quality of the pitchers they're facing right now.

Is this series over? Such could be the case by the end of Game 3 Tuesday night, if at that point we're admiring Verlander's latest big-game performance. Phil Hughes gets the start in Game 3, though however he fares will be moot should the Yankees not snap out of it against Verlander, who went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA vs. the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS.

Dealing with Derek Jeter's loss will be difficult enough for the Yankees. Rodriguez, Swisher, Granderson and Cano slumping as badly as they are heading into a confrontation with Verlander looks like a perfect recipe for disaster.

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