DETROIT — Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows the offensive slump that the Yankees are going through is an anomaly, something that would be brushed aside in the regular season but is magnified in the playoffs.
The Yankees are hitting .205 in seven postseason games and have scored 20 runs. They have scored in only four of the last 29 innings and trail the Tigers two games to none in the American League Championship Series.
Angry fans at Yankee Stadium spent the weekend booing Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson loudly. Nick Swisher got so much abuse from fans in right field that he felt compelled to complain about it.
Leyland expects that to change, because it has to.
“The Yankees are going to break out here at some point. That is just a matter of fact,” Leyland said during a conference call Monday, a day off in the series. “You are certainly concerned about it because they are just too good.”
But Leyland has a good solution to that in Justin Verlander, who will start Game 3 on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
The reigning Cy Young and MVP winner faced Oakland twice in the Division Series, surrendering one run over 16 innings and striking out 22. His shutout in Game 5 moved the Tigers into the next round.
“There is a lot to be said for a horse, but it is hard to be a horse, too,” Leyland said. “It is hard to be a horse mentally, in my opinion, because the expectations are so high. And the thing with Justin, he has matured so much as a pitcher. He figured out different ways to get people out without overexerting himself.”
Verlander, who was 17-8 with a 2.64 earned run average during the regular season, was 9-2, 1.65 in 15 starts at home. He also is relaxed, spending part of his time on Monday running a contest on Twitter to give away two tickets to the game.
“There’s still the angst, the nervousness and just the pregame jitters,” Verlander said. “But I feel like I’ve pitched in some big games now and understand what my body will be going through and what my mind will be going through. I use it more to my advantage.”
Verlander is not infallible. He faced the Yankees three times this season and gave up 25 hits and seven earned runs over 20⅓ innings.
In LCS history, 23 teams have taken 2-0 leads since 1985 and all but three have gone on to win the series.
“Believe me, we’re not comfortable just yet,” Leyland said.
Pressure on Hughes
Phil Hughes, who will start Tuesday for the Yankees, will be under considerable pressure. His team is behind in the series, playing without injured Derek Jeter, and he will be facing Verlander.
The 26-year-old righthander has made four postseason starts but none like this.
“There’s always questions that come with every start, and I don’t really feel like I can feel any added pressure just because of the circumstances,” Hughes said. “I just have to go out there and pitch, that’s all it boils down to, not really worry about being down 0-2; that Verlander is on the mound; that we don’t have our captain.
“Those sort of things are going to be wasted energy, and all I really want to focus on is the Detroit Tigers lineup and doing the absolute best job I can do.”
Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 10 career appearances against Detroit. In two starts this season, he gave up five earned runs over 13⅓ innings.
Hughes said he can’t worry about whether the Yankees will provide any run support for him.
“The game plan that we have going into it is to shut down the team as best we can, so that doesn’t change,” he said. “I’m trying to throw up as many zeros as I can. I try to go out there and throw the best game I can and trust that our guys are going to score some runs.”
Girardi mourns father
The Yankees did not travel to Detroit until Monday and elected not to work out at Comerica Park.
Manager Joe Girardi attended the funeral of his father, Jerry, in Peoria, Ill.
Jerry Girardi died on Oct. 6 at the age of 81 of complications from Alzheimer’s.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also attended the services.
Leyland said he would go game-to-game deciding who will be used as the closer. Jose Valverde temporarily lost the job after giving up seven runs in his last two appearances. “I still consider Valverde the closer. It’s just a matter of have a conversation and see how he is feeling and see what the pitching coach thinks,” Leyland said. “We obviously are going to need him. We will wait and see how the game plays out and go from there.” . . . Lost in all the news about the slumping Yankees is the fact that Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers is a modest 8 of 28 (.286) with two doubles and two RBIs in seven postseason games.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.