Bronx, NY—At 11:41 pm on October 6, 2011, Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the fifth game of the American League Division Series and the 2011 season of the New York Yankees. The 3-2 loss to Detroit was a disappointing conclusion to the Yankee season for the organization and to the largest crowd in the current Yankee Stadium, 50,960, who attended the game.
Rookie starter Ivan Nova surrendered home runs on consecutive pitches to Don Kelly and Delmon Young in the first frame. Detroit had never produced back-to-back homers in post-season games previously. Young’s homer was his third in the five games against the Yanks.
Kelly’s unexpected four-bagger was especially pleasing to Detroit’s veteran skipper, Jim Leyland. The manager had decided to put the journeyman into the starting lineup before the final contest with the Yankees. Kelly had only hit eight homers in 288 regular season big league games.
Before the game Leyland told reporters, “He deserves to be in there tonight…Here’s a guy that’s the 25th guy on the team, I guess, but I wouldn’t rather have another 25th guy. It’s kind of a nice story. Good for Don Kelly.” After the game, Leyland, obviously, continued in the same vein, “I’m real proud of him. To happen [home run] to a guy like this is real special.”
Nova was removed after two innings because of tightness in his right forearm. The Yankees relief corps, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, CC Sabathia, his first relief appearance in the majors, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, gave up only one run and five hits in seven innings.
The final Detroit run came in the fifth off Sabathia. Austin Jackson, a former Yankees farmhand, doubled to lead off the inning. He scored on a single by Victor Martinez. That additional run was sufficient to garner the victory.
The first run of the game came with two out in the fifth on a Robinson Cano home run. The homer was Cano’s eighth in postseason play.
In the previous inning, the Yanks loaded the bases with one out, but Russell Martin popped to first and Btett Gardner popped foul to third. No runs scored.
In the seventh, singles by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano again loaded the bases with one out. A Rod, the next batter, struck out. Mark Teixeira earned a walk to score the second Yankee run, but Nick Swisher struck out to end the inning with the bases filled.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, after the game, gave credit to Detroit’s pitching, “They made big pitches when they had to.” He also spoke of the closeness of the contest, “A hit here, a hit there and it would have been a different series.”
The feeling in the hearts of the organization and its rooters was aptly described by the manager, “It’s a real empty feeling and it hurts.”
During the long night after the loss, angry and bitter criticism of the yanks could be heard loudly. The critical words against Rodriguez, who struck out three times and did not hit safely, were heard most often. The angry words, many unprintable here, were heard from the fans leaving Yankee Stadium.
In a Steinbrenner run business, losing is extremely undesirable and barely tolerated. Plans for the 2012 season are already being rumored. It is said the veteran hurler Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia will not be offered contracts. Sabathia has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can choose before the next season begins. Many other changes will almost surely be made also.