10/02/11 8:30 PM ET
A-Rod, Yankees have no answer for Scherzer
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
"I thought I had some good swings yesterday," Rodriguez said following the Yankees' 5-3 loss Sunday in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. "Today, not so good."
The results were the evidence. Batting cleanup behind Robinson Cano, Rodriguez finished 0-for-3 in Game 2, upping his hitless streak to eight at-bats to open the postseason. Like so many of his teammates, he struggled in particular against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, making only weak contact with Scherzer's mid-90s fastballs.
First baseman Mark Teixeira also went 0-for-3 against Scherzer, finishing 0-for-4 overall. Derek Jeter was 0-for-3 against the Tigers starter and 0-for-5 on the night. Even Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, both of whom homered later in the game, were a combined 0-for-5 off Scherzer.
"I think he showed that he dominated our whole lineup," Rodriguez said, before adding the kicker: "But it's one game."
Even so, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted before the game, Rodriguez will always receive attention -- whether the sample size is an at-bat, a game or an entire season. Sitting at the heart of one of the game's best offenses, Rodriguez needs to be productive for all those around him -- Granderson, Cano, Teixeira et al -- to optimize their output.
Right now, the third baseman does not appear close. Nor worried.
"One thing about the playoffs, one pitch can make a big difference," he said. "You're not looking to get six or seven hits. You're looking to get one or two big hits, one or two big at-bats and be productive."
No one knows that better than Rodriguez, who was once a playoff goat of historic proportions before hitting .438 with five home runs over the first two rounds in 2009. At that time, Rodriguez appeared to shed his playoff demons for good.
But Rodriguez is older now, perhaps a bit frailer, battling first a left thumb sprain and currently a sore right knee. He refused to make those injuries an excuse -- "this time of year, nobody cares," he said -- but the injuries may be affecting him. Over the final month of the regular season, Rodriguez hit merely .196 in 51 at-bats.
Not that September statistics matter in October.
"It's only two games," Girardi said, dismissing talk of altering his lineup for Game 3. "I'm not going to make too much of two games."
Especially considering that one of those games came against Scherzer, a pitcher on an apparent mission. Pumping his fastball as high as 98 miles per hour, Scherzer did not discriminate with his excellence -- he dominated Rodriguez the same way he did Swisher, Granderson, Teixeira and others.
Take Jeter, for example. One game after going 2-for-5 in the Yankees' playoff opener, Jeter was 0-for-5 against Tigers pitching, with three of those at-bats coming against Scherzer.
"I thought I had some good at-bats the first couple times up," Jeter said. "The last couple times ... it's frustrating when you lose."
Had the Yankees completed their furious ninth-inning comeback against Tigers closer Jose Valverde, things might have been different. Rodriguez's empty day might have been lost amidst talk of another Yankees victory.
But that is how the postseason works. If Rodriguez homers in Game 3, or drives in a key run, he will quickly reclaim his status as a postseason whiz kid.
All the Yankees can do is cross their collective fingers.
"In the playoffs, every pitch is a different lifetime," Rodriguez said. "You can't get caught up in what happened in the last month, what happened in the last at-bat. Every at-bat counts."