The Yankees were already going it without Mariano Rivera this month, a strange sight to everyone who has followed baseball since the mid-1990s. But then Rivera was only out there for one or two innings per night.
Derek Jeter was the immovable object. The Yankees have played in 158 postseason games since 1996, and Jeter has started every single one of them. He’s the all-time postseason leader in games played by 30, in at-bats by 185 and in hits by 72. He’s also the postseason leader in runs scored and total bases. He’s first in singles, first in doubles, tied for first in triples and even third in homers.
And now he’s done for 2012 due to a fractured ankle.
When the Yankees take the field without Jeter in Sunday’s ALCS Game 2 against the Tigers, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so in the postseason since Oct. 8, 1995. That was a Game 5 loss to the Mariners in the ALDS. Randy Johnson famously came out of the pen and got the win in relief for Seattle.
Tony Fernandez was the Yankees’ shortstop in that contest. Dion James played left field, believe it or not. A 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez pinch-ran for Seattle and got his first ever postseason at-bat in the contest (he grounded out). Tino Martinez was the guy he replaced (he was traded to the Yankees two months later).
That ALDS loss was the Yankees’ first postseason series in 14 years. So, the Bombers haven’t actually won a postseason series without Jeter since 1981, when they prevailed in the ALDS and ALCS before losing to the Dodgers in the World Series.
The odds are stacked against them winning this one, too. They’re down 1-0 to the Tigers, they have Hiroki Kuroda going on short rest in Game 2 and they’ll be up against Justin Verlander in Game 3. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson are all struggling mightily. And now they’ll be going with Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez at shortstop. It’d be a stunning achievement if they can somehow pull this one out.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.