Facing Verlander once proves bad enough for Yanks

I wrote after the Yankees’ Game 1 victory in the American League Division Series that the rain suspension may have worked in their favor. I based that on the fact that they would not have to face Justin Verlander more than once in the series. That is still a plus, but after losing Games 2 and 3, whatever edge I envisioned is long gone.

The Tigers have taken control of the series, and the Yankees are in a position of having to rely on the patently unreliable A.J. Burnett Tuesday night to get the ALDS back to Yankee Stadium for a possible Game 5 Thursday night. That Burnett, who was not going to be in the rotation in this series initially, gets this start is also due to Game 1 going into a second night. It is an opportunity for A.J. to turn around an erratic season.

Delmon Young’s second home run of the series, an opposite-field drive to right off a first-pitch cutter from Rafael Soriano in the seventh inning, was the difference in the 5-4 victory. It would have been terrific if the Yankees could have come back in the ninth against closer Jose Valverde, who had boasted after Detroit won Game 2 that the series was over and would not return to New York. Walks to Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner gave the Yanks hope, but Valverde closed it out by striking out Derek Jeter.

The hyped pairing of Verlander and CC Sabathia turned out pretty one-sided. Verlander spotted the Yankees two first-inning runs, but he pitched through the eighth, ringing 100 or more mph with his fastball occasionally and striking out 11 batters. Sabathia lasted one out into the sixth and was lucky to be only two runs behind considering he walked six (one intentionally).

Yankees manager Joe Girardi implied after the game that plate umpire Gerry Davis squeezed his pitcher somewhat, but Verlander didn’t seem to have trouble, so it sounded like sour grapes. In regular season play, Sabathia is 6-0 with a 2.19 ERA in games with Davis behind the plate, so there is certainly no bad history between them. CC was hurt not so much by the walks but by the unlikely hitting of 9-hole hitter Brandon Inge and platoon second baseman Ramon Santiago, who combined for four hits, two runs and two RBI.

The Yankees’ offense came from the top and bottom of the lineup. Verlander was touched for a single by Jeter and a triple by Curtis Granderson in the two-run first. The Yankees rallied with two outs in the seventh. After Posada, who is having a fine series, walked and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch, Gardner doubled to left-center off a 3-2 fastball that was clocked at 100 mph to tie the score.

As for the middle of the Yankees’ order, Verlander handled it adroitly. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher combined to go 0-for-14 with six strikeouts. A-Rod did drive in a run with an infield out and walked twice. These guys need to do some damage in Game 4 against Detroit’s Rick Porcello if the Yankees want to create a reason to play Thursday.

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