Tigers win in extras, Jeter's season over

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Tigers win in extras, Jeter's season over

NEW YORK -- Three innings earlier, Raul Ibanez had, incredibly, struck again, rocketing another improbable homer into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium, giving his team new life, one more time.

It was the third homer of this post-season for Ibanez. All three have come in the ninth inning or later, making Ibanez the unlikeliest of October heroes for these New York Yankees.

It seemed like this game was headed in the same direction as Game 4 of the Division Series against Baltimore, when Ibanez tied the game in the ninth with a pinch-hit homer, then won it in the 12th.

A two-run homer from Ichiro Suzuki -- the first post-season homer of his career -- and the one from Ibanez, both off embattled closer Jose Valverde, had wiped out a 4-0 Detroit Tigers lead in the span of four batters.

Surely, this night, like so many October nights in this ballpark or the one it replaced across the street, would have a happy ending for the Yankees.

Except it didn't. Not hardly.

In the 12th inning, the Tigers took the game back with two runs. Worse, for the Yankees, shortstop Derek Jeter went diving for a grounder by Jhonny Peralta and fractured his left ankle, ending his season.

And just like that, the Yankees went from nearly finishing off another late-inning comeback to losing not just the game, but their captain, too.

Sucker punch to the gut.

"It's going to test the resolve of this team,'' said Derek Lowe, in the aftermath of the Tigers' 6-4 victory. "It's probably going to take a little bit of time, to have the reality sink in. It is what it is. But within an hour or so, to go from Ibanez doing what he does to this.... this isn't an ideal situation.''

"That's kind of crushing,'' said Nick Swisher when told of the diagnosis on Jeter. "It's tough.''

Around the home clubhouse, the Yankees were all trying to say the right things: that they would miss Jeter, of course, but that they would go on, just as they had earlier in the year when their closer for the ages, Mariano Rivera, went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Jeter, of course, had been playing with a bone bruise on the same left ankle. He had come out late in Game 3 when the ankle worsened, and in Game 4, he was limited to DH duties, marking the first time in his career that Jeter had not played shortstop in a post-season game.

His teammates are accustomed to him playing through pain, shrugging off injuries. Not this time. When he went sprawling for the ball hit by Peralta, he flipped the ball toward second baseman Robinson Cano as if there had been a force play at second. There wasn't. It was Jeter just trying to get the ball to someone else.

From the dugout, Joe Girardi knew this wasn't any ordinary injury.

"Oh boy, if he's not getting up,'' said Girardi, recounting the moment, "something's wrong.''

And indeed it was. Jeter was carried off the field by the manager and the team trainer, carried right into his off-season.

Earlier, it had been Ibanez figuratively carrying the Yankees, doing what others in the New York lineup have been unable to do. Robinson Cano, arguably the team's MVP during the regular season, is hitless in his last 23 at-bats.

For the third time in the last four games, Alex Rodriguez was lifted for a pinch-hitter. And Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson looked inept at the plate, as they've been most of this month.

But it wasn't enough. The Tigers came back.

"If we're going to be good enough,'' said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, "we have to be able to take a punch and we took a big punch. We took a right cross in the ninth inning, but we survived it.''

The Tigers surely have their issues, too. Their infield defense is atrocious and their bullpen beyond suspect.

Their closer, Jose Valverde, who surrendered the Ibanez homer, has now given up seven earned runs in 2 13 innings this post-season.

Leyland strongly hinted that the Tigers will try someone else in the closer's role, unwilling to trust Valverde after two ninth-inning blown saves in the last three games.

But that seems minor by comparison to what the Yankees face.

The Tigers are otherwise healthy and they have grabbed themselves a lead in this series, and done so on the road.

It may only be one game, one loss, but the Yankees are in trouble. And this time, not even Raul Ibanez can save them.

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics found themselves in an unfamiliar place for most of the first half against Milwaukee. The Celtics were playing from behind as the half ended, and were trailing the Milwaukee Bucks 55-49.

The Bucks opened the game with a 14-4 run, only for Boston to respond with 10 straight to tie the game at 14. Boston would take the lead but couldn’t put much distance between itself and Milwaukee, with their lead in the first quarter peaking at just four points.

After a 24-all tie to end the first, Milwaukee opened with an 8-0 run and played with the lead for the remainder of the second quarter in which their lead grew to as many as 14 points. 

But the Celtics chipped away at the Bucks' lead, getting it down to as little has four points on multiple occasions before the Bucks wound up taking a six-point lead into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. 

STARS

Khris Middleton: Milwaukee’s ball movement created lots of open looks, and nobody seemed to benefit more from this than Middleton. He had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. 

Isaiah Thomas: He didn’t take a lot of shots, but made the ones he did take count. He had 20 points at the half on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak was solid in the first half with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting. 

Mirza Teletovic: He gave the Bucks a nice offensive spark to the second quarter, finishing with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting.

Avery Bradley: He managed to get some easy looks on cuts to the basket, finishing with eight points on 4-for-9 shooting and three rebounds. 

DUDS

Celtics composure: Both Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas picked up technical fouls in the second quarter, letting their emotions get the better of them. And on top of that, they turned the ball over 11 times which led to five points for the Bucks but even more important, took away potential scoring opportunities for the Celtics.  

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

BOSTON – Like most of us around New England, Wyc Grousbeck heard all the early praise doled out on the Boston Celtics as being one of the elite teams in the East prior to this season starting. 

“I felt before the season that maybe we were being overrated,” Grousbeck, co-owner of the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “That we were maybe a top-10 team in the league and the top few in the East, maybe. But it still felt like a longshot.”

And here they are, preparing to play Game No. 75 this season, against Milwaukee, with the best record (48-26) in the Eastern Conference. 

“They’ve grown into themselves,” Grousbeck said. “They’re playing better than I probably thought.”

But Grousbeck has been around the NBA long enough to know there is still much work to be done. After all, the Celtics’ focus remains on winning an NBA title. But Grousbeck is wise enough to know that while that is the goal, it often takes longer to accomplish than anyone – himself included – would like. 

It’s even trickier when you consider how the East is still relatively close despite their being just a handful of games remaining. 

“There’s a bunch of teams scuffling around in the East, and we’re scuffling around with them,” Grousbeck said. “We gotta do something in the playoffs.”

This will be Boston’s third straight season advancing to the postseason. Each of the first two appearances ended with a first-round exit. 

But this year is different. The Celtics are on pace to finish with home court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs. But if they’re able to win the games they are favored throughout the remainder of this regular season, they will finish with the top seed in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

And as we’ve seen of late, home court has indeed been an advantage for Boston which comes into tonight’s game having won its last seven at home, which includes the first four games of a current six-game home stand. 

The success Boston has had thus far has raised the expectations of many. 

And while Grousbeck certainly wants to see the Celtics have more success than they have had the last couple of years in the playoffs, there’s no mistaking he is pleased with the direction of the franchise that just four years ago was a lottery team.

“There’s no reason to put a ceiling on the season,” Grousbeck said. “I think this season already looks good to me. I love our coach. I love our young players. I love our draft picks and our potential cap room (this summer); all of our fans. So I’m already happy with where the team is going.

Grousbeck added with a grin, “If we can speed it up all the better.”