From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Searching for answers, Joe Girardi was stumped."I can't hit," the New York Yankees manager said.And, apparently, neither can some of his high-priced stars.The Yankees avoided a dubious distinction Tuesday night and yet moved within a loss of elimination for the third straight year.Eduardo Nunez's ninth-inning home run prevented New York from getting shut out in consecutive games of one postseason for the first time.Raul Ibanez, though, went on to strike out against former Yankee Phil Coke with two on, sealing a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night and a 3-0 AL championship series deficit.On a night when Alex Rodriguez was benched for the second time in four games, Justin Verlander took a two-hit shutout into the ninth, allowing a pair of Ichiro Suzuki singles.Nunez homered on a Verlander curveball with one out in the ninth, and Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano hit consecutive two-out singles against the lefty Coke-- with Cano ending a postseason-record streak of 29 hitless at-bats."I wasn't thinking of that," Cano insisted. "You just got to get on base for your teammates, especially in a situation like that when you want to keep the inning alive and you've got the hottest hitter coming after you."Ibanez, whose ninth-inning, two-run homer tied the opener, got ahead in the count 3-1 before fouling off a pair of pitches and striking out on a slider in the dirt."He gave me some good pitches to hit, and I fouled them off," he said. "He threw a breaking ball down and I didn't get it done."Ibanez said he and his teammates still have confidence in their ability to come back in the series."Everything can turn around in one swing of the bat, in one inning, things can turn around," he said. "I've seen it happen. We've all seen it happen."Once.Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox -- against the Yankees -- have overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.The Yankees will lean on their ace, CC Sabathia, who was 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in the division series against Baltimore, to at least extend the ALCS with a strong performance Wednesday night in Game 4."We're still in this thing," Gardner said. "If you're down 3-0, you want CC on the mound."Sabathia insisted his team's struggles at the plate don't affect his approach on the mound."I always want to go out and try to shut the other team down," he said.New York is hitting .200 in the playoffs, including .196 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have a .182 average in the LCS, in danger of becoming a record low for New York in a postseason series -- a.171 mark set against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series.Rodriguez, 3 for 23 in the playoffs -- including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers, sat on the bench -- even overlooked as a pinch hitter. Nick Swisher, 4 for 26 in the playoffs, joined the 275 million third baseman in taking a seat."We're just trying to find a lineup that works," said Swisher, a free-agent-to-be who could complete his Yankees career Wednesday. "I thought it was a great lineup. I wasn't in it, but you have to back your teammates."Girardi could've chosen to put Rodriguez in the game as a pinch hitter if Ibanez extended the ninth inning, but with catcher Russell Martin limited by a bruised right thumb, he had Swisher on deck."You want to get up in those spots and be the guy in that spot," Swisher said.Eric Chavez replaced Rodriguez at third base and went 0 for 3. Brett Gardner went 0 for 4, essentially taking Swisher's spot, leading off and playing left field, in his first start since April 17. Curtis Granderson had an 0 for 3 night, dropping to 3 for 29 with 15 strikeouts in the playoffs.And, Girardi can't turn to Derek Jeter, whose year ended when he broke his left ankle in the opener.Rodriguez seemed to take his demotion to the dugout in stride by smiling and joking with teammates as he stretched before being forced to sit. He didn't talk to reporters before the game and departed postgame before media was allowed into the clubhouse.Phil Hughes left with a back injury in the fourth inning, two batters after allowing Delmon Young's leadoff home run."It wasn't too bad, I was trying to stay in the game," Hughes said. "They just decided with the circumstances and kind of the way things were going that they'd go to the bullpen."In the fifth, David Phelps gave up an RBI double to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and that proved to be the game-winning hit that put the Yankees on the brink of elimination."Thank goodness it's a seven-game series, and not a five-game series," Gardner said. "We're still alive."
FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 26-10 win over the Rams Sunday, courtesy of the Pats' P.R. department:
A DEFENSIVE FIRST : The Patriots allowed just 25 total first-half yards to the Rams, the lowest total in a half in team history. The previous low was 28 yards by the Jets in the first half on Dec. 26, 2005 in a 31-25 New England win.
A DEFENSIVE SECOND: The Patriots yielded just 36 yards rushing to the Rams, the second time this season New England has held its opponent to fewer than 40 rushing yards. Cleveland rushed for only 27 yards in Week 5.
BY THE NUMBERS DEFENSIVELY: The Patriots have now held the opposition to less than 20 points in 8 of their 12 games this year, and are allowing just 17.3 ppg.
PATS HIT 10-VICTORY MARK FOR 14TH CONSECUTIVE SEASON: The Patriots are now 10-2 and have won 10 or more games for 14 consecutive season, the second-longest streak in NFL history. The 1983-98 49ers had a 16-year streak
RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE: Tom Brady did not throw an interception Sunday and Patriots QBs have been picked off just once in the first 12 games of the season, an NFL record. The previous record for fewest interceptions thrown in the first 12 games was three, held jointly by the 2016 Vikings, 2015 Chiefs, 1993 Cowboys and 190 Chiefs. The NFL record for fewest interceptions in a season is five.
THE GOAT: As noted elsewhere, Brady became the winningest QB in NFL history with his 201st career victory.
HOME BODY: Since 2007, Brady is 62-6 overall at home in the regular season. That is more wins than five teams (home and away) have combined during that span. (60 by the Bucs, 57 by the Raiders, 52 by the Jaguars, 47 by the Browns and 46 by the Rams).
GETTING CLOSER: LeGarrette Blount scored on a 43-yard run in the first quarter and is now one rushing TD away from the tying the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season. He has 13, one behind Curtis Martin (who scored 14 in both 1995 and 1996).
-- CB Logan Ryan sacked Rams QB Jared Goff for a loss of 12½ yards in the second quarter for his first sack since 2013.
-- LB Kyle Van Noy recorded his first NFL interception when he picked off a QB Jared Goff pass in the third quarter.
-- WR Julian Edelman finished with 8 receptions for 101 yards, his first 100-yard game of the 2016 season. (He now has eight 100-yard games in the regular season and two in the postseason.)
This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston.
It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.
Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold.
“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”
Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range.
According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man.
The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season.
So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.
The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system.