Commentary

Yanks suddenly October underdogs

In one night, they lost a game, their captain and their status as Series favorites

Updated: October 14, 2012, 4:05 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- In the long and distinguished history of the most successful franchise in American sports, this could be the greatest story of them all.

If the New York Yankees were to somehow, some way, find eight more wins this season, the ticker-tape parade would be like none other the city has ever seen.

"We have to find a way to get it done," a drained Joe Girardi said after his team's 12-inning Game 1 loss Saturday night to the Detroit Tigers, which took Derek Jeter down with it.

Jeter is done for the season due to a fractured ankle. The most prestigious Yankee since Joe DiMaggio couldn't walk off the field on his own, mirroring an image from May when the greatest closer in history, Mariano Rivera, needed a cart to leave the field and still has not returned.

The Yankees went on to lose to the Tigers 6-4 -- and even before Jeter's injury, it looked like their season was crashing down. Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest home run hitters the game has ever seen, is melting before the nation's eyes. He hasn't gone deep in a month, and there are signs he will be back on the bench for Game 2. He went 0-for-3 before being pinch hit for again Saturday.

Rodriguez left the bases loaded in the first inning, hit into a double play to end the third and struck out on three pitches with two men on in the sixth.

Even if Rodriguez is healthy enough to play, it appears -- at least right now -- that the Yankees will have to win a championship without him, too.

The same goes for Nick Swisher. Swisher is a career .138 hitter in 173 postseason at-bats and could find himself on the bench for Game 2 as well. Curtis Granderson? He's 3-for-23 this postseason, with 11 strikeouts.

Robinson Cano? He's hitless in his past 22 at-bats. In Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees have Hiroki Kuroda going to the mound on short rest -- something he has never done in his major league career. The Yankees' bullpen is strained, after Girardi used everyone except Joba Chamberlain on Saturday. In Game 3, perhaps the game's greatest weapon, Justin Verlander, awaits. Girardi will need to make the pregame speech of the year Sunday to make sure his team's mindset is right.

"We'll take this one day at a time," Girardi said. "You know, I'm not sure how we'll deliver it, how we'll talk about it. When we went through it with Mo in Kansas City, Mo spoke to the team and told us to get it done."

The captain likely will have similar words for his teammates Sunday. They all knew he was hurt beyond return when he couldn't stay on the field Saturday.

The feeling that emanated throughout Yankee Stadium and in the clubhouse in the early hours of Sunday morning was one of helplessness. Everyone was in shock over what could have been a glorious night, celebrating the latest dramatic home run by Raul Ibanez. Ibanez again delivered in the clutch, tying the game in the ninth with a two-run homer.

Instead, there was emotion all over Girardi's face in his postgame news conference. In the middle of the clubhouse, GM Brian Cashman spoke, detailing Jeter's condition and, as he usually does, giving his team no room for excuses.

"It is a tough loss, but it is not going to be something that we are going to let derail us," Cashman said. "It is tough to lose any important player, but Derek has obviously been as important as anybody. But now he has been taken out. Nix will now go in there. I have a lot of confidence in Nix."

Nix is Jayson Nix, a journeyman utilityman. This is what the Yankees' season has come to.

Underdog stories do happen in sports -- just not usually to the New York Yankees.

But these aren't the big, bad Yankees. A-Rod is a platoon player, maybe less. Swisher and Granderson might need to be benched as well. Cano has been terrible. Rivera has been out since May.

The Yankees' slogan this October is "27 and counting." If they were to get championship No. 28 under these circumstances, it would become a legendary tale, ranking at the very top of the franchise's history.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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