The primary concerns surrounding the Yankees all season related to their rotation. But blame the bats for their premature exit from the playoffs.
For the Yankees, who had the American League's best record, it's on to an offseason off issues that include the contract of general manager Brian Cashman, whose deal expires Oct. 31; the opt-out in CC Sabathia's contract that he is expected to exercise; the likely departure of Jorge Posada and, of course, other holes left in the rotation with the likely departures of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
The Yankees, who trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, had their chances throughout the game but mostly came up empty, stranding 11 runners in the first eight innings. They loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and seventh but couldn't do much damage, scoring only one run.
In the fourth, after Alex Rodriguez was held at third by third-base coach Rob Thomson on Jorge Posada's solid single to center that loaded the bases, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner popped up against Doug Fister.
With two outs in the eighth, Gardner singled off Benoit and appeared to have second base stolen when Derek Jeter flied out to the warning track in right.
Against Jose Valverde in the ninth, Curtis Granderson popped to left, Robinson Cano sent a broken-bat liner to center and Rodriguez struck out to end the Yankees' season and was booed lustily. It was his third strikeout and dropped him to 2-for-18 in the series.
Although Nova took the loss after allowing home runs to Don Kelly and Delmon Young on consecutive pitches in the first inning, reliever Sabathia allowed what proved to be the winning run in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by former Indians batterymate Victor Martinez. The hit, which followed an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave a predictable answer about his expectations for his starter, Nova. Then he tagged his response with something that turned out to be prophetic.
"I expect him to go out and pitch well," Girardi said. "My approach is if I feel we need to make a change, I'll make a change no matter what time it is. That's the bottom line."
The change came after two innings. Girardi pulled Nova with what the manager later said during the TBS broadcast was a tight right forearm.
A procession of relievers, including Phil Hughes and Sabathia, followed Nova to the mound. Sabathia, making his first career relief appearance, struck out four in his 11/3 innings but allowed a run in the fifth on Martinez's two-out single, making it 3-0.
Fister, charged with six runs in 42/3 innings in his Game 1 loss to Nova, shut out the Yankees until Cano's two-out homer in the bottom of the fifth made it 3-1.
Max Scherzer, who allowed two hits in six shutout innings in the Tigers' Game 2 victory, replaced Fister in the sixth.
Nova had not lost a game since June 3 -- he was 12-0 with a 3.25 ERA in his last 16 starts of the regular season -- and Girardi talked much of the season of the key to the rookie's success being his ability not to let innings get away from him.
The first inning didn't get away from Nova, but the runs he gave up at least temporarily sucked the air out of the raucous sellout crowd of 50,960, the largest in the history of the new stadium.
Nova started off strongly, striking out Austin Jackson and getting ahead of Kelly 0-and-1. But the next two pitches didn't go as well. Kelly pulled a drive into the seats in rightfield for a 1-0 lead and Young blasted one over the leftfield wall for his third homer of the series and a 2-0 lead.
Cano picked up his ninth RBI of the series, all with two outs, with his home run in the fifth. Teixeira drove Jackson to the warning track in center with a long fly ball in the sixth and Posada singled, making him 6-for-13 to that point in the series, but Martin struck out against Scherzer to end the inning.