The worst case scenerio reared its ugly head tonight for the Yankees as Kenny Rogers, the consumate October choke-artiste, came up aces for the Tigers, throwing the best money game of his career. It was nothing short of Ripley's I tell you and I can't recall being more livid watching a game all season. Rogers had a nasty curve ball that he used for a strike-out pitch, to go along with his normal assortment of slop. His control was excellent and he had the Yankees at his mercy. Did he make a deal with the Devil? This certainly wasn't the Kenny Rogers we knew in New York.
The Yankees had a runner on base in each of the first eight innings but could not score a run. The team went 0-18 with runners on base, and as result lost Game 3 in humiliating fashion, 6-0. Rogers kept the Yankees off-balance, had them chasing a diving change-up out-of-the-zone, and frozen, looking at fastballs perfectly placed on the black. In all, Rogers had eight strike outs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Moreover, Rogers was increasingly animated and charged-up on the mound as the game progessed.
The Yankees, it seems, can not buy a break in this series. In the fifth inning, with the score 3-0, Bernie Williams narrowly missed a two-run home run. He chased ball four in the dirt and struck out instead. When Robinson Cano went down next, Rogers screamed at his catcher, "C'mon, godammit, give me the ball." In the top of the sixth, Derek Jeter smoked a line up the middle. The ball caught Rogers--an excellent fielder--in the glove and he was able to pick it up and throw Jeter out. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Guillen's two-out line drive hit off Jeter's glove for a hit, opening the door for the Tigers to score two more runs. And that's the way the cookie crumbled for the Bombers who now look to Jaret Wright to stop the bleeding and salvage the season. Think about that for a moment and see if you can sleep well tonight. (Emily, always the voice of reason said to me, "Well, if Kenny Rogers can pitch a great game what makes you think Jaret Wright can't do the same thing?")
Randy Johnson allowed five runs but he wasn't entirely awful. A three-run second inning featured an awful defensive throwing play by Jason Giambi. It was just not the Yankees night, pure and simple. Things happen fast in the first round. The Yankees and Twins were the hot teams going into October, but Minnie was swept by the Oakland A's and the Yankees are hanging on for dear life. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have done bubkus in the series (though Cano got his first hit, a single, tonight). Damon, Giambi and Abreu did dick tonight. The entire team mustered just five hits.
But this is no time for pointing fingers. The entire team has got to suck it up and show-up in full-force tomorrow. Otherwise, what has been a fine and awfully enjoyable season will end prematurely and regrettably. Time to see what kind of fight these guys have in them.
Hang tough, guys. The Yanks'll get 'em tomorrow. Nobody said it was going to be easy.