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Yankees' slump defies explanation

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Yankees' slump defies explanation

DETROIT (AP) If there were a quick and easy solution, surely this bunch would have figured it out by now.

Alex Rodriguez has over 600 home runs. Curtis Granderson hit 43 during the regular season. Robinson Cano is one of the best all-around players in the game.

The three of them are trapped in the throes of batting slumps at the worst possible time, and the rest of the New York Yankees haven't been much better.

``There is no explanation sometimes in baseball,'' first baseman Mark Teixeira said.

Put it this way: How is it possible that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, a career .118 hitter, has as many hits in the last two postseasons as A-Rod? More extra-base hits for Carpenter, too.

Like a golfer with the shanks during a major tournament, the Yankees have looked helpless at the plate in the biggest games of the season. They were hitting .205 in these playoffs as they prepared for Game 3 of the AL championship series Tuesday night. New York lost the first two games to the Detroit Tigers.

Shortstop Derek Jeter is injured, and aside from unsung outfielder Raul Ibanez and Teixeira, New York's power hitters have seemed lost. It's the type of October swoon that can derail a season, and no team is ever really safe.

``It's a tough game. No matter what kind of career - what kind of lineup you throw out there - you're going to have those times when it's not clicking,'' said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, whose team is playing San Francisco in the NLCS. ``You've just got to battle through those times, because they're bound to happen.''

Rodriguez is 3 for 23 in the playoffs. Over the last two postseasons, he has five hits - the same number as Carpenter. Manager Joe Girardi has pinch hit for A-Rod late in games and left him out of the starting lineup Tuesday for the second time in less than a week.

Granderson is 3 for 26 in these playoffs. Cano's collapse is even more startling. The second baseman finished the regular season on a 24-for-39 tear, but he's 2 for 32 since then and was hitless in his last 26 at-bats entering Tuesday, a record for a single postseason.

Nick Swisher (4 for 26) and Russell Martin (5 for 26) aren't producing either, and Swisher was also out of the starting lineup Tuesday. The Yankees won a key game in the division series against Baltimore when Ibanez hit a pair of late homers, and he hit another in Game 1 versus Detroit during a four-run ninth inning against struggling closer Jose Valverde. That was the only real highlight for the New York offense lately.

``To have that many guys and that many good hitters, sure it's surprising. I'm sure it's frustrating for them to have that happen to them,'' San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. ``You're always going to see good pitching this time of year, you understand that, but for them to have that many struggles, I think they're a little surprised.''

In the regular season, patience is a virtue. Streaks and slumps have time to even out over the course of 162 games. A player can start poorly but finish the year with his usual impressive statistics, the way Albert Pujols did.

``You know the Yankees are going to break out here at some point,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ``That is just a matter of fact.''

Maybe so, but they can't afford to wait much longer.

``The team's not going to be too high or too low during the regular season, but in the postseason you have five or seven games, everything is magnified,'' Teixeira said. ``A two-game losing streak during the regular season, no one even talks about. But two games in a row in a seven-game series is a big deal, so we have a big hole to dig ourselves out of.''

The worst postseason batting average by a team that played at least seven games is .195, shared by the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1965 Minnesota Twins, according to STATS, LLC.

The 1974 Oakland Athletics won the World Series despite hitting .198 in the postseason. The 1962 Yankees did as well, even though Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were a combined 7 for 48.

Perhaps the most encouraging historical memory for the Yankees comes from another of their championship seasons. In 1996, New York was shut down by Atlanta in the first two games of the World Series. At that point, the Braves had won five straight games by a combined score of 48-2.

Then the Yankees took the next four and won the title.

``It's just baseball. Things turn in a matter of a heartbeat,'' Granderson said. ``It's amazing how things tend to go that way - from the good side to the bad side, from the bad side to the good side.''

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AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow and Janie McCauley contributed from San Francisco.

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

Andre Burakovsky will be sidelined for the remainder of Washington's first-round series vs. Columbus, but he isn’t necessarily out for the remainder of the playoffs, Coach Barry Trotz said on Friday.

Burakovsky suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the Capitals' Game 2 overtime loss and has not been on the ice since.

Trotz said the 23-year-old top-six winger needs “minor” surgery.

That procedure, however, will not preclude Burakovsky from returning to the Caps’ lineup in subsequent rounds, should Washington advance.

“That's why I said minor surgery,” Trotz added, asked if Burky might return at a later date.

This latest surgery is the second for Burakovsky this season. In late October, he had a procedure to repair a broken left thumb and missed the next 20 games.

Since his departure in Game 2, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have taken turns replacing Burakovsky on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks remarked after Game 2 and following practice on Thursday that he was partly to blame for Bradley Beal's modest scoring output through two games in the team's playoff series against the Raptors. They weren't just throwaway lines, a coach trying to make his star player feel better for struggling in the playoffs.

No, Brooks truly meant what he said and followed up those comments with an apology face-to-face. Brooks met with Beal and John Wall in between Games 2 and 3 to see how they can get Beal going and reiterated that some of it all was on the coach.

"He apologized to me, which was weird because he's somebody who always holds me accountable for stuff," Beal said after Friday's shootaround. "I guess he figured I wasn't shooting the ball enough and he thought it was his fault. I don't know."

Beal, who is averaging 14.0 points in two games and scored only nine in Game 2, came away from the meeting with a good understanding of what he needs to do to get back on track. After apologizing, Brooks laid out a strategy in hopes that he, Wall and Beal can all be on the same page moving forward.

They need to get their All-Star shooting guard back to form on the offensive end.

"He just basically challenged me. He challenged me to be more aggressive on the offensive and defensive end," Beal said.

What has made Beal's scoring troubles through two games particularly surprising is how well he played against the Raptors during the regular season. He averaged 28.8 points in four games against Toronto and all were without Wall.

Beal shot 50 percent against the Raptors both from the field and from three. So far this series he's shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from long range.

Asked whether there is anything he can draw from the regular season to apply to the playoffs, Beal said it's not as easy as it may seem.

"Those games are different. The matchups are different to an extent. It's totally different in the playoffs because you have more time to prep and prepare and gameplan for us," he said. 

"I think the biggest thing is them being physical. They are real physical with me. Whenever I'm standing around on offense or moving around, they are grabbing me. I just need to be physical back with them. Keep moving off the ball and especially if Kyle [Lowry] is guarding me. Tire him out as much as possible. Continue to be aggressive."

Coaches use all sorts of leadership tactics to motivate players. Perhaps an apology will do the trick.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3