Thursday, October 6, 2011 Updated: October 7, 12:24 PM ET
Swisher among Yanks who fell short
By Rob Parker ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- In the end, it was the hitting, not the pitching.
We know, we know. The New York Yankees actually outscored the Detroit Tigers 28-17 in this best-of-five American League Division Series.
But it's the Tigers, not the Yankees, who advanced to the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers.
Nick Swisher struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, a critical point in Game 5.
That's because in the Tigers' 3-2 victory in the fifth and deciding game before a stunned, sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd Thursday night, the Yankees' big hitters couldn't come through in the game's biggest moments.
Hence, all that talk before the season that the Yankees couldn't make a postseason run because they didn't have enough starting pitching just wasn't exactly true. It was the hitting -- er, the lack of hitting -- by Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher that ultimately cost them a third straight trip to the ALCS.
In this series, Rodriguez batted .111 (2-for-18) with three RBIs, Teixeira batted .167 (3-for-18) with one RBI, and Swisher batted .211 (4-for-19) with one homer and one RBI.
"The one thing that I know is I know their heart and their effort," manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm not disappointed in any one of our guys. Not one of them.
"I'm proud of every one of those guys and what they bring to the table every day. Some days, you just get beat."
In this case, the bats were beaten twice.
First, the Yankees had a golden opportunity to score and erase their 2-0 deficit in the fourth inning. The Yanks had the bases loaded with just one out. It appeared as if they were about to break through against Tigers starter and winner Doug Fister.
Jorge Posada set up the excellent scoring chance with a single to center. There were runners on first and second at the time. Rodriguez, who was on second, couldn't score because the ball was hit too hard, right at Austin Jackson. Then Russell Martin and Brett Gardner each hit infield popups.
While that situation hurt, it was still early, and you figured the Yankees would get another chance to do some damage.
Enter the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and one out, and the Tigers leading 3-1, A-Rod fanned for the second out. Teixeira walked, forcing in the Yankees' second run. Then Swisher struck out swinging to end the threat.
"Collectively, we couldn't get it done," Swisher said. "It's hard to say it, but they deserve it."
Fair or not, Swisher has been a major disappointment in the postseason during his tenure with the Yankees. The team has a $10 million option on Swisher for next season. They should decline it if they want to win another World Series.
Swisher has been a fine regular-season player. But he just doesn't perform when the stage is big and the lights are bright. With the Yankees, Swisher is now batting .165 (19-for-115) with five homers and six RBIs in the playoffs. That's not going to get it done. Period.
"This feeling I have right now in my stomach, man, just a nasty feeling," Swisher said.
Still, there were a lot of runs scored by the Yankees in this series -- just not at clutch times. The 28 runs is the second-most in franchise history in a single division series, trailing only the 33 they scored against the Seattle Mariners in 1995. The Yankees also lost that series, 3-2.
This one hurts more, though, because it wasn't like the Yankees needed a dramatic home run or eight-run rally to win. They just need a single or a sacrifice fly in a key moment, yet they couldn't get it against the Tigers' pitching.
"Players aren't going to make excuses, neither am I," Girardi said. "The bottom line is we lost some really close games to them.
"We lost two one-run games and a two-run game. And as I said, a hit here and a hit there, and it's the difference in the series."
It was only fitting that the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the ninth against Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Rodriguez struck out for the final out of the game, and the season.
"The irony is that I was waiting for that at-bat all series," Rodriguez said. "I felt like I never really had a situation to make a really big difference."
In this series, a single or a sac fly could have made all the difference. But the Yankees' bats never delivered when it mattered most.