It started with Doug Fister last Saturday night, and it ended with Max Scherzer on Thursday in the twilight. In between there was Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander. And Phil Coke, of all people.
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
Relentlessly the Tigers, behind their Four Aces and their Wild Card Joker, hacked away at the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, which is mercifully abbreviated for us writers as the ALCS.
With every inning of shutout baseball they tossed in the series, the Tigers starters chopped off a little more of the Yankee mystique. Fister, Sanchez, Verlander and Scherzer—the new Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as far as the Yankees are concerned.
One goose egg after another was posted next to NEW YORK on the scoreboard. And as they were being racked up, the Redwood that has been the Yankees, with their 27 World Series titles and 17 playoff appearances in the past 18 years, was being whittled down until Prince Fielder caught the final out—a harmless popup, naturally—and the Tigers could finally yell, “TIMMMMBERRR!”
You’ve heard of the hockey people talk about “rolling four lines”? The Tigers rolled four starters at the Yankees, each one better than the previous. Fister was good. Sanchez was very good. Verlander was great. Then it was Scherzer’s turn in Game 4 and he was unhittable—literally, after five innings. The Yankees managed a couple of hits and a run in the sixth inning, but by that time the Tigers had scored six times, had hit two home runs, and the plastic drop cloth was being tacked over the stalls in the Detroit clubhouse.
I’m not sure we are fully aware of what just took place in the past six days. Maybe we’re like Jack Buck that way, when Buck called Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, a scene that would have been rejected out of hand by any Hollywood producer worth his salt.
“I don’t believe what I just saw!” Buck screamed into the radio mike that night, and he was speaking for an entire baseball nation when he did.
The Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. It’s like being asked to describe “The Wizard of Oz” and saying, “There was a tornado and a girl got knocked out and had a weird dream. Then she woke up.”
First, this wasn’t a sweep, it was an exorcism. Yankees haters everywhere—and that encompasses about 90 percent of the United States population by my count—saw all the demons that had previously possessed their team at the hands of the Yankees and watched them being sucked out of the souls of the guys in pinstripes.
Tigers pitching, with the exception of the One Who Shall Not Be Named, limited the Yankees to two runs in the four games. One came on a solo homer in the ninth inning of Game 3. The other came on a couple of hits in the sixth inning of Game 4.
That was it for the Yankees offense.
Just call them the Bronx Bummers.
What we saw materialize, starting with last Saturday and ending on Thursday—which would have been Wednesday, had Mother Nature not injected herself into the series—was the demolition of a franchise that has terrorized the American League since 1995, when the Yankees started making the playoffs again after a 14-year absence and only failed to do so once in the ensuing years up to 2012.
The Yankees, it turned out, didn’t even belong on the same diamond as the Tigers. If this was spring training, the Yankees would have been asked to take their game to the minor league complex.
The Yankees not only didn’t win a game in the series, they never had the lead. Not once, in 39 innings. When the series began last Saturday, the Yankees’ objective was to get the four wins needed to return yet again to the World Series. By the time the series ended, the Yankees were just hoping not to get no-hit.
A rally for them was a ball three count.
One by one, Yankees hitters made that long walk back to the dugout, head hanging, bat drooping, another strikeout in the books for Detroit pitching.
The series was stunning in its one-sidedness, which is what I mean about this not fully sinking in yet. The series came and went so rapidly, we need some time to look back at this thing and truly marvel at it.
Someday we’ll be sitting on our porches, sipping lemonade, rocking in our chairs, and gazing off into the distance. One of us will say, “Remember the 2012 ALCS?”
“Yep,” the other will say, nodding.
“That was something.”
And more lemonade will be sipped.
Somebody page Frank Lary, for the Tigers are suddenly the Yankee Killers, redux.
Three times in the past seven seasons, the Tigers have drummed the Yankees out of the playoffs. Last year, it took a gutsy win in raucous Yankee Stadium, in the deciding Game 5, to pull off the feat. This year, the Tigers survived one scary inning by the One Who Shall Not Be Named in Game 1, and after that they weren’t to be caught. The hare beat the tortoise this time, in the requisite runaway.
Ding, dong, the Yankees are dead. Their supposed Murderers’ Row lineup all sported batting averages resembling the weights of bikini models. Right, A-Rod?
But are they truly dead? Have we seen the last of the New York Yankees in October?
Considering that a majority of their stars aren’t far from ordering off the seniors menu, maybe. But these are the Yankees. They never met a challenge they feel they can’t buy their way around. Some teams rebuild; the Yankees break off a check.
That’s OK. The Tigers are moving on, to the World Series. The team that was three games behind the Chicago Freaking White Sox about a month ago is in the championship round—armed and dangerous.