A season of hope and promise came crashing to an ugly finish on Saturday, as New York was ousted from the postseason courtesy of an 8-3 Detroit win. The Tigers won the series, three games to one, sending the Yanks home for another early winter.
Jeremy Bonderman dominated the Yankees' lineup, following the lead of fellow starters Justin Verlander and Kenny Rogers.
"They pitched well. Verlander started it and it seemed like everyone followed him," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "We didn't swing the bats well all series. That's one of the big reasons we're going home."
This marks the second consecutive season and third time in five years that the Yankees have been eliminated in the American League Division Series. New York, which hasn't won a World Series title since 2000, now faces another offseason of uncertainty.
"We're very frustrated. We were expecting to win a world championship when we showed up for Spring Training," Johnny Damon said. "A couple of days ago we were even talking about how great our offense was rolling after that first game. Three days later, it's gone."
Jaret Wright was hit for four runs (three earned) in just 2 2/3 innings, as manager Joe Torre yanked him before the game got out of hand. Cory Lidle appeared to calm things down by retiring the first four hitters he faced, but the Tigers struck him for three runs in the fifth, breaking the game wide open.
It's certainly disappointing, and everyone in that locker room is disappointed," Torre said. "They outplayed us. They outpitched us. There's not much else you can say."
The Yankees found themselves in a 3-0 hole after two innings and a 6-0 hole after five. New York's first run came in the seventh, snapping an incredible 20-inning scoreless streak by the Yankees' supposedly unstoppable offense.
"It seemed like we could never get a rhythm going," Jason Giambi said. "We had it going in the first game, where we'd get a hit and tack on some more hits, but after that, we could never get the train going. They had great pitching. They just outplayed us."
"Something wasn't right, clearly," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We played our worst baseball in the wrong month. The timing was terrible, and the Tigers had something to do with it. They earned it."
Before the game, Torre tried to shake things up by inserting Melky Cabrera into the lineup in left field, putting Gary Sheffield back at first base and dropping Alex Rodriguez to the No. 8 spot in the batting order.
None of it worked, though, as Bonderman came out dealing, retiring the first 15 batters he faced to record five perfect innings. Bonderman pitched 8 1/3 innings, holding the Yankees to two runs on five hits, carrying the Tigers to the AL Championship Series, where they will face the A's.
"Their pitching really shut down a great offense," Damon said. "It's disheartening. They outplayed us offensively, defensively, they pitched better than us. Because of that, they deserved to win."
Rodriguez finished the series 1-for-14, his second dreadful postseason in a row. Last year, he went 2-for-15 in the ALDS loss to the Angels, and he was just 2-for-17 over the final four games of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox.
Teams with best record in Majors (or share of) losing in Division Series since 2000
|2006 Yankees||97||Lost to Tigers in 4|
|2003 Braves||101||Lost to Cubs in 5|
|2002 A's||103||Lost to Twins in 5|
|2000 Giants||97||Lost to Mets in 4|
"I don't know how to explain it," Rodriguez said. "I hit some balls hard that got caught. If there's a frustrating part, it's that I felt very comfortable, very relaxed. I had some good swings, I had some bad swings. That's a numbers game. Overall, I wish I could have done better."
Wright retired the side in order in the first, but Magglio Ordonez put the Tigers on the board with a solo homer to lead off the second. Three batters later, Craig Monroe blasted a two-run shot, giving Detroit a 3-0 lead.
"The ball being up, basically that's what did me in," Wright said. "You give up runs on home runs, you have to think that's all they'll get. I'm thinking that until I come out of the game."
The Yankees' offense barely put up a fight against Bonderman, who threw just 31 pitches through the first four innings and 40 through five.
"He did exactly what they needed him to do," Jeter said. "They got an early lead and they just kept scoring. It just wasn't a good day for us."
Detroit added to the lead in the fifth, opening the inning with two runs on four straight hits against Lidle. Ivan Rodriguez tacked on an RBI sacrifice fly to boost the lead to six runs, sending the sellout crowd of 43,126 into an orange towel-waving frenzy.
"Playing on the road, you want to take the crowd out of the game," Jeter said. "It didn't happen. They hit the two big home runs and kept pouring it on after that. That's why we're going home."
Robinson Cano broke up the perfect game with a leadoff single in the sixth, but the Tigers tallied another run in the bottom of the inning.
"We were certainly ready to play when we came into this series, and we felt pretty good about ourselves," Torre said. "They showed that good pitching can stop good hitting."
The Yankees finally put a run on the board in the seventh on Hideki Matsui's RBI fielder's choice, but Bonderman avoided a potential rally, getting Cano to fly out with runners on first and second. Jorge Posada added a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth.
In the four-game series, the Yankees hit .246 and scored 14 runs (3.5 per game), far less than the .285 average and 5.74 runs per game they posted during the regular season.
"We're pretty proud of our hitters, we just weren't able to mount any kind of a threat," Torre said. "It's surprising more than disappointing. I'm never disappointed in these guys, because in order to get here they had to work very hard and take nothing for granted. We certainly didn't come into this series expecting that we were going to get something for nothing."
"I came here expecting us to be the Yankees and I didn't see that," Cashman said. "I'm disappointed by that and it hurts, so the search continues for that team that can get a championship."
After the game, the Yankees' clubhouse was somber, as players reflected on how a series they seemed to be in control of just four days ago got away from them so quickly.
"When you're one of the last eight teams left when October starts, everybody has high expectations," Mike Mussina said. "It's hard when you play well for so long and it doesn't last. They pitched really well the last three games and we didn't pitch well enough. We certainly couldn't get anything going, offensively. For this week, they played better."
"Baseball is so unpredictable," Bernie Williams said. "You can have a team of All-Stars out there and still not get the result that you want. That's why you play the games."
As players packed their bags and headed for their final team flight of the season, several players stood by their lockers, still stunned by the results of the last 48 hours.
"I think we've all seen enough baseball games to know it doesn't always go the way that you plan," Damon said. "The best teams don't always win. It's the team that's the hottest. The Tigers came into the postseason as the coldest team. They found the right time to turn it around."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.