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Friday, October 7, 2011
Heartbreak city in the Bronx

By Amanda Rykoff

New York City-based Yankees superfan and espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff shared her thoughts throughout the Yankees' playoff run. Today she provides her reaction to the heartbreaking 3-2 ALDS Game 5 loss to the Tigers that ended the Yankees' season.

Did that really happen? Did I just watch the Detroit Tigers dance on my team's infield? I am heartbroken and saddened over what transpired at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. I'm not ready to say goodbye to the 2011 season. It was not supposed to end this way.

When the Yankees beat Detroit on Tuesday to force a decisive Game 5, I felt great about my team's chances. A.J. Burnett -- yes, the same A.J. Burnett who had angered and frustrated Yankees fans since 2009 -- pitched well. The offense came alive with 10 runs. The Yankees were set up with a rested bullpen and Ivan Nova, the unflappable rookie, was ready to start. The Bombers were heading back home to the Stadium, their baseball mecca in the Bronx, which had been christened with a World Series title in its first season in 2009 and where come-from-behind, walk-off wins are expected.

Everything was set up perfectly, and I was ready. I'm a creature of habit and extremely superstitious, so I made sure to bring as much good mojo as I could to the Stadium. I wore my Curtis Granderson T-shirt (I opted for that over my "lucky shirt" -- perhaps that was a mistake). I packed my lucky Yankees cap in my bag. I wore my "lucky shoes," the same blue-and-silver Saucony sneakers that had been on my feet for playoff games as far back as 1998. Yes, I've had these shoes for 13 seasons -- I wear them only to Yankees games. I ordered my patented "Rally Nachos" in the fifth inning. This, of course, led to Robinson Cano's solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning that cut Detroit's lead to 3-1.

Even Mother Nature cooperated for the first time in the series, providing a gorgeous fall night without a chance of rain. David Cone -- a pitching hero of the great Yankees teams that won four World Series from 1996-2000 -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The crowd was on its feet, chanting and cheering, and there was a palpable electricity in the air. It wasn't quite the old Stadium -- nothing will ever feel like the old Stadium, even if the Yankees win 10 more titles in the new building -- but it was close. "This is happening," I said to my friend Jodi. "This is really happening."

But then Don Kelly, the second batter of the night, took Nova deep to right for a home run. And Delmon Young hit the very next pitch out to left. Before we'd blinked it was 2-0, and the electricity was gone. Just like that. Though there were moments throughout the rest of the game when the crowd got fired up, rooting for the Yankees to come through, to get the clutch hit or the big home run we've come to expect from this team, it never happened.

Like so many times this season, the Yankees could not get the big hit when they needed it, leaving the bases loaded twice and stranding 11 runners. Each time the Yankees got men on base, the crowd of more than 50,000 went into another frenzy. And each time, we sat back down, deflated and disappointed, like a balloon that had been popped by a pin.

I don't have enough time or energy to dissect some of Joe Girardi's managerial moves that left most of us in Section 237 baffled. It looked to us like a clinic in Joe Girardi Overmanaging 101, playing every matchup exactly as the binder dictates without regard for common sense. We didn't know that Nova's forearm had tightened up, forcing what looked to us like an extremely premature pitching change. We were confused by his move to replace Phil Hughes with Boone Logan. We didn't know why he needed to bring in CC Sabathia for his first-ever relief appearance. The run CC surrendered ended up being the difference in the game. But the Yankees should have scored more than two runs.

A few final thoughts:

• I was appalled by the Yankees fans who chanted "A-Rod sucks!" along River Avenue and on the 4 train platform after the game. Did A-Rod struggle in the series? Yes he did, going 2-for-18 with three RBIs and striking out to end the final game. But A-Rod was not alone in his struggles. Mark Teixeira (3-for-18, one RBI) and Nick Swisher and just about every other bat besides Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner had a rough series. Russell Martin looked absolutely brutal at the plate Thursday night, and nobody chanted nasty things about him. The Tigers, with their all-righty pitching staff, presented a bad matchup.

• Out in Section 237, we had no idea that Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit was wearing a huge Band-Aid or that Girardi asked that it be removed. I didn't know anything about it until I got home.

• As I've mentioned already, this might have been Posada's final game with the Yankees (or even in baseball). I'm sure I'll have more to say on this, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge what a tremendous Yankee he's been and what a pleasure it's been to watch him play all these years. Of course, it would have been great to send him out with another World Series title, but he had a hell of a final series. The crowd at the stadium -- myself included -- gave him a thunderous ovation before his last at-bat in the eighth inning. Thank you, Jorge.

I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate the Detroit Tigers on advancing to the ALCS. They pitched extremely well and got big hits when they needed them. And most impressive, they won two of the three games at Yankee Stadium. That is no small feat. I tip my cap to them even as I sit here, still stunned and saddened that the season is over for my team.