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."
OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.
Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.
“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.
Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.
It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.
“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.
When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.
Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.
Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).
When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.
The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.
“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”
OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.
Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.
As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.
“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”
The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).
That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.
“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.
Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.
He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.
Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.
“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.
“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”
Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.
“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”
Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.
There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.
For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.
“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.
“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”