NEW YORK — A game that started out perfectly unraveled in spectacular fashion, revealing frailty in the New York Yankees’ mighty lineup and featuring a costly umpiring blunder that prompted a new round of calls for Major League Baseball to better utilize instant replay.
About the only ones who came out of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series looking good were the Detroit Tigers and their stellar starting pitchers. With Sunday’s 3-0 win over New York in front of 47,082 fans at Yankee Stadium, the Tigers grabbed a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series and head home where their ace Justin Verlander is waiting to take the hill for Game 3 on Tuesday.
The Yankees have little time to regroup before the ALCS resumes. Their sluggers are struggling at the plate. Their captain, Derek Jeter, is on crutches and won’t make the trip to Detroit after breaking his ankle in Game 1. And Manager Joe Girardi will be coming off the first postseason ejection of his career after he was tossed Sunday for arguing a call at second base that appeared to cost his team at least one run.
While there wasn’t much in the first two games of the ALCS that Girardi will want to relive, there are a couple of plays he said could’ve changed the complexion of the series had they been reviewed.
“In this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it’s got to change. . . . Too much is at stake,” he said.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda was flawless through five innings Sunday, but it didn’t matter as New York’s imperfections became all too apparent. The Tigers held a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning when they added a pair of insurance runs with the aid of a suspect call at second base.
After Kuroda opened the inning with a pair of strikeouts, Detroit’s Omar Infante singled and advanced to second on Austin Jackson’s base hit to right. After rounding the bag, Infante was slow getting back and Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher came up firing. Infante slid, and though video replay showed otherwise, umpire Jeff Nelson called the Tigers second baseman safe.
Infante scored the Tigers’ second run of the game on Avisail Garcia’s single. That’s when Girardi stormed out of the dugout to belatedly argue the call at second. He was quickly tossed from the game, and Detroit added one more run in the inning when Miguel Cabrera knocked in Jackson.
Nelson conceded after the game that he made the wrong call, and Major League Baseball officials immediately responded to Girardi’s call for more comprehensive instant replay, an issue the sport has been exploring with great interest, said Joe Torre, the executive vice president of baseball operations. Under the current rules, only home runs can be reviewed.
Said Torre, “We’re not saying it can happen, but right now we haven’t really come to any conclusion on what’s the best way to go about it, and not make the game drag and go longer than they are going already.”
Though his team trailed even before the controversial call, Girardi said the game dynamics were altered. “There is more pressure on the pitchers when it is 1-0 in the eighth inning and your club is hitting than 3-0,” he said. “I would like to take my chances.”
The commotion wasn’t near enough to stir the New York offense Sunday. Through two ALCS games, the Tigers’ starters have been too much. In fact, neither Doug Fister in Game 1 nor Anibal Sanchez on Sunday gave up a run.
Sanchez picked up his first win of the postseason, holding New York scoreless on three hits in seven innings of work. Sanchez struck out seven and walked three.
“He was terrific,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “This is a tough place to pitch with a tough lineup and a short porch and a whole bunch of left-handed hitters. It is not easy. That was quite a feat.”
Both starters, in fact, put on a show. Pitching on just three days’ rest, Kuroda dominated early. He struck out the side in the second. He needed just seven pitches to get out of the fourth. He struck out Cabrera on three pitches in the first.
When the Tigers’ bats finally came to life, they made the most of it. Left fielder Quintin Berry led off the seventh inning with a ground-rule double to center and moved to third on Cabrera’s single to right. With two runners on base and no outs, Kurado struck out Prince Fielder swinging and got Delmon Young to hit a grounder to short. But at second, Robinson Cano was unable to turn the double play to end the inning, and Berry streaked across the plate for the game’s go-ahead score.
“You hope to take at least one in the beginning of the series,” Berry said of his team’s performance on the road. “To take two, we know we’re in a great spot.”