The New York Yankees' anemic offense will try to right itself against Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday, as the American League Division Series shifts to Comerica Park for Game 3.
The Yankees' offensive woes from the ALDS have followed them into the ALCS and after Sunday's 3-0 loss, they now find themselves down 0-2 in the series and now have to face maybe the best pitcher in baseball in Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
"It's definitely not an ideal situation," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "We'd rather be up 2-0 and facing a Triple-A pitcher. That would be nice. But we've done it all year. A lot of people counted us out. It seems like we thrive on coming back."
Rodriguez has seemingly become the face of the Yankees' struggles, but he is nowhere near alone in shouldering the blame for this mess. He's 0-for-17 with 12 strikeouts against righties this postseason, but Curtis Granderson is hitting .115 with 14 strikeouts, Nick Swisher is batting .154 and Robinson Cano has been so bad it's now reached historical proportions.
After another 0-for-4 effort on Sunday, Cano is now the only player in major league history to go hitless in 26 straight at-bats in a single postseason. He is 2-for-32 this postseason with one run scored and four RBI, all coming in the ALDS.
"It is odd," manager Joe Girardi said. "You know this is a really, really good hitter that is struggling right now, and he's not getting a lot of pitches to hit."
What makes Cano's slump even more puzzling is the fact that there wasn't a hotter player entering the playoffs. Over his final nine games of the regular season, Cano hit .615 with three home runs, 14 RBI and seven doubles, including a 4-for-4, two-homer performance on the final day to help the Yankees secure the AL East crown.
"You just have to keep swinging," Cano said. "You keep playing the game, and that's the only way you can turn it around."
In all, the Yankees offense has mustered just seven earned runs in 43 2/3 innings thrown by opposing starters, while Detroit's rotation has posted an 0.94 ERA in the playoffs this year.
That number could shrink even further for the Tigers on Tuesday with Verlander on the hill. The right-hander has won his last six starts and has posted a minuscule 0.61 ERA during the span.
"As a rotation, right now things are going well," Verlander said. "It is nice to see us get rolling as a group, and hopefully we can continue it through the World Series."
Verlander won both of his ALDS starts against Oakland and struck out 11 in a four-hit shutout in the deciding fifth game. He has fanned 22 batters in 16 innings this postseason.
"I never had anybody pitch a Game 5 or 7 more flawlessly than Verlander the other night," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He was totally dominant. I think it has to do with maturity."
Verlander was 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in three outings against the Yankees this year, but he has struggled against them in his career, going 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 13 starts.
"If you want to win a World Series," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said, "you've got to beat the best -- and he's the best right now."
New York, meanwhile, will counter with righty Phil Hughes, who was terrific in his ALDS start against the Baltimore Orioles. Hughes gave up just a run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings of that one, but did not factor in the decision of his team's 2-1 loss.
"I'll just do what I can," Hughes said. "One pitch at a time, and not worry about Games 4 or 5. Just focus on what I can do, and that's pretty much it. We're not in the position we want to be, but we'll have to go there and try to give ourselves a chance."
Hughes, who was 16-13 during the season with a 4.23 ERA, pitched perhaps the best game of his career back in June in Detroit. But after that complete game win he failed to get out of the fifth inning the last time he pitched there. In all, he is 5-4 lifetime versus the Tigers with a 4.22 ERA.
"I'll just throw the best game I can and trust that our guys are going to score some runs," Hughes said. "And obviously, Verlander is a great pitcher, but he is human, and we know we can score off him. I just have to do a better job than he does. It's going to be a challenge, but like I said, I'm looking forward to it."
History appears to be on the side of the Tigers, as 19 of the previous 22 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the ALCS have advanced to the World Series. They've also completed sweeps both times they have led 2-0, against the A's in the 2006 ALCS and against the Royals in a best-of-five ALCS in 1984, en route to their most recent World Series championship.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are 4-4 in postseason series after losing the first two games.
In addition to last season's ALDS, the Tigers also beat the Yankees in the first round in 2006. New York, though, took six of the 10 regular season matchups this past year.