DETROIT — The New York Yankees avoided a dubious distinction. They didn't avoid moving within a loss of elimination.
Eduardo Nunez's ninth-inning home run prevented New York from getting shut out in consecutive postseason games for the first time. Raul Ibanez 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.
Ibanez, whose ninth-inning home run 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.
New York is hitting .200 in the playoffs, including .196 with runners in scoring position. They have a .158 average in the LCS, on track to be a record low for New York in a postseason series — below a .171 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, jointed the $275 million third baseman on the bench.
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.
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.
Phil Hughes left with a back injury in the fourth inning, allowing two batters after allowing Delmon Young's leadoff home run. David Phelps gave up an RBI double to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the fifth.
Now it's up to CC Sabathia, 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in the division series against Baltimore. Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox — against the Yankees — have overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.
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