But the loss for the pin-stripers could be far worse than the score: their captain and team leader, Derek Jeter fractured an ankle and is out for at least three months.
For many other teams, the loss of one individual might not make as much difference. But, Jeter with a .364 batting average in the post-season has been one of the hottest hitters in Major League Baseball.
In addition, he brings a certain intangible – a toughness – that gives a boost to the team. In fact, manager Joe Girardi, after telling reporters in the post-game news conference about Jeter’s injury, said the Yankee short stop’s attitude was an example for anyone who goes through struggles in life.
“There are times when I see him limping pretty bad,” said Girardi, “and I say ‘Are you okay’ and he says, ‘Yeah, I’m great, let’s go’. He never tells me what’s bothering him.”
In fact, on Saturday night/Sunday morning, as he was lying on the ground, Girardi tried to lift Jeter and carry him in his arms into the clubhouse. He immediately told Girardi to put him down.
“He said, ‘no not here,’” recalled Girardi. Instead, Jeter draped his arms around Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue and kept off his broken ankle. “He’s as tough a player as I’ve ever been around.”
In addition, Jeter has become something of an ambassador to the sport for Major League Baseball. He has been scandal-free and mainly keeps his focus on the game. He is one of the reasons why the Yankees are major draws in other cities when they are on the road.
The Jeter injury, which came in the 12th inning, made the game something of an emotional roller coaster for the Yankees and their fans.
Going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Yankees were down 4-0. Then, Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run home run off Detroit’s closer Jose Valverde. Then, with one more runner on base, Raul Ibanez came up. He hit another home run tying the score.
Yankee fans were delirious—remembering game three against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series (which the Yankees won in five games) when Ibanez, pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez, tied the game in the ninth inning and then won it in the 12 inning on a home run. When Ibanez came up in the 11th inning against Detroit he popped up in foul territory.
From then on it was all Detroit. They started to pound rookie pitched David Phelps in the top of the 12th inning. Then, in a hard hit ground ball to his left, Jeter appeared to catch a cleat. He fell to the ground and rolled the ball to second baseman Robinson Cano. Detroit scored two runs in the inning.
Girardi said watching Jeter on the ground brought back a flashback of this spring when he watched his long-time closer, Mariano Rivera, fall to the ground when shagging fly balls. Like Jeter, Rivera did not get off the ground. It turned out he had torn a knee ligament and would miss the season.
“I said, Oh, no,” said Girardi seeing Jeter on the ground.
The Yankee skipper tried to put an optimistic spin on the Jeter injury. He noted that after Rivera was injured “some people left us for dead and here we are in the ALCS.”
Girardi said he expected Jeter would tell the team “Let’s go.”
On Sunday afternoon, the Yankees will find out if Jeter’s attitude carries though on the ball field.
“One person’s injury is another person’s opportunity,” said Girardi. “We have to move on.”