DETROIT — Elimination might be kind for these Yankees, because at least it could be over as soon as tonight. The humiliation will exist for much longer.
With Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Justin Verlander, ex-Ray Delmon Young and the rest of the Tigers, the Yankees find themselves on the brink of a colossal fall, down three games to none in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
And little reason to think they can do much, if anything, about it.
"It's definitely a tough situation that we're in," DH Raul Ibanez said. "What else are you going to do? You have to fight. Fight all the way back."
Staggered by massive offensive failure that has them hitting .200 for the postseason — "Shock, to be honest," general manager Brian Cashman said — the Yankee made major changes to their lineup, benching Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher.
But it didn't change much, as Eduardo Nunez's ninth-inning homer was all that kept them from being shut out for the second straight game (ending a string of 20 zeroes), and they have scored in exactly two of the 30 innings thus far.
"What has happened has happened," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You have to find a way to score runs (tonight)."
Certainly Verlander had something to do with it Tuesday, delivering another dominant though not quite complete game performance, retiring the first 10 Yankees and allowing only a pair of singles (to Ichiro Suzuki) until the ninth. He gave up the homer to Nunez on his 124th pitch — prompting a quick visit from manager Jim Leyland, who asked, simply, if he could get one more out — and after retiring Brett Gardner on his 132nd pitch (one off his career high), he was done, replaced by Phil Coke, who allowed two two-out hits before ending it.
Young, the one-time Rays prodigy who has grown up — and out — in the five years since being dealt for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, led off the fourth with a solo homer to put the Tigers ahead.
Young, now 27, was primarily the DH for the Tigers this season, hitting .267 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs, but has come up big for a second straight postseason, the homer his second of this series and a Tigers record seventh overall. "It feels good," Young said. "We all want to help win games in the postseason right now, and everyone is doing what they can."
The Tigers added an unearned run in the fifth, taking advantage of a trio of Yankees defensive miscues.
After winning 88 games during the season — two fewer than the Rays — the Tigers have won six in the playoffs and with one more will be back in the World Series for the second time in seven years.
"It's great to be up 3-0; we have to win one," Verlander said. "But against this lineup, against this team, you never know. … Every game in the postseason is a must-win. You have to keep momentum on your side. Hopefully we can go out (tonight) and shut this down. If it doesn't happen then reset, and go out the next day."
The Yankees, meanwhile, are tasked with trying to become the second team to come back from a 3-0 deficit, joining the 2004 Red Sox, who did it to them in the ALCS. At least they have ace CC Sabathia on the mound tonight.
"You look at this and it could be a number of different things besides 0-3 for us," Girardi said. "We have gotten good pitching all the way throughout the playoffs, and we will need it again (tonight) if we want to live another day."