DETROIT — The contrast was even more stunning than normal.
After first baseman Prince Fielder caught the final out of the 8-1 AL Championship Series victory and the Comerica Park stands erupted, the Tigers jumped and hugged on the field. Then they headed into the home clubhouse, where the music blared and the cigars were lit and the champagne was sprayed. Thursday's party seemed like it might rage until they head out next week to St. Louis or San Francisco to open the World Series.
"It's great," said DH Delmon Young, the former Ray named MVP of the series. "It's fun knowing you get to go there."
But down the hall, the silence was broken only by running showers and some shallow answers as the Yankees, the once-mighty Yankees with the biggest names and largest payroll, searched for explanations as to how they not only came up short again, but in such an embarrassing way, swept in four straight without putting up much of a fight.
"It's certainly disappointing and hard to stomach how we played here recently at the most important time of your year," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We feel we let the fans down in New York and each other at the same time."
The cause of their demise was obvious: a staggering lack of offense that started in the division series, specifically from their biggest stars. It got worse against the Tigers, as they hit .157 and scored six runs in the series. In a fitting finale, they were no-hit into the sixth Thursday by Detroit's Max Scherzer and finished with two hits for the day. To make matters worse, they got a poor outing from CC Sabathia.
"We just didn't hit," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "That's not us."
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose failures were the focal point as he was dropped from the lineup, hit .120 (3-for-25) for the postseason. Robinson Cano .075. Curtis Granderson .100. Russell Martin .161. Nick Swisher .167. Eric Chavez, who replaced A-Rod, was blanked 0-for-16.
"It wasn't one guy, it wasn't two guys," manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a bunch of guys."
So after getting an American League-most 95 wins and an East Division crown for their majors-high $200 million payroll, the Yankees will wonder what else, after shuffling the lineup and benching big names, they could have done differently until they, or at least some of them, gather in the spring in Tampa.
"Extremely difficult," Girardi said.
"A terrible way for the season to end," Rodriguez said.
"It's just tough," Swisher said. "I don't know how else to explain it. Just tough. It's the worst interview of the year."
The Tigers still have plenty to talk about, as they head to the World Series for the second time in seven years.
"If someone would have told me we would sweep the Yankees in this series, I would have told them they were crazy," manager Jim Leyland said. "A little luck, some pretty good pitching, obviously, and a couple of hits at the right time, and sometimes you get on a roll that's pretty good."
Especially when they spent much of the season looking like a disappointment despite adding Fielder to a core that included Justin Verlander, who won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards last year, and Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown and has a good shot at the MVP award this year.
They were under .500 as late as July 5. They were three games out of first with 16 to play and needed a collapse by the White Sox to win the AL Central. And they finished with only 88 wins, two fewer than the Rays and matching the Cardinals for least among the 10 playoff teams.
"I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, 'You know what, let's just wait till the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it. But let us play out the schedule to see if we underachieve,' " Leyland said. "So hopefully we've quieted some doubters now."
The doubters, and the Yankees.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]