DETROIT -- By the bottom of the fourth inning Thursday, the lone piece of drama remaining in this ALCS was if an already flat-lined Yankees lineup would produce the ultimate dead-wood day and get no-hit.
The Yankees avoided that indignity, but that was it. They put up little resistance in Game 4, managing only two hits and striking out 12 times, and were swept into the offseason with an ugly 8-1 loss to the Tigers in front of a Comerica Park crowd of 42,477 that included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "They just kicked our butts, plain and simple," Mark Teixeira said.
Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine watched a hideous afternoon of baseball from their club, an afternoon that featured a Triple Crown of another kind -- nearly non-existent hitting, poor fielding and lousy starting pitching.
It was a jolting end to a season that collectively contained more good than bad, starting with capturing the AL East title with a league-best 95 victories and overcoming numerous key injuries.
"This team did show a lot of heart and guts to get through a lot of injuries, but it's certainly disappointing and hard to stomach how we played recently," general manager Brian Cashman said. "At the most important time of your year, we feel we let the fans of New York down."
Cashman and his personnel department -- along with Steinbrenner and Levine -- will have a busy offseason. Just a few of the questions needing to be addressed revolve around free agents such as Nick Swisher, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibañez. And then there's Alex Rodriguez, who did not start the last two ALCS games and was a hot topic of trade rumors Wednesday, though Cashman said he expects A-Rod to be his third baseman next year.
"We didn't want our winter to start just yet," Cashman said in declining to prioritize his offseason list of to-dos. "But unfortunately, it's coming sooner than we wanted."
It's coming because -- stop us if you've heard this lately -- the Yankees didn't hit.
That they failed to hit in Game 4 wasn't a surprise, though. Their offense entered the day hitting .200 with a .317 slugging percentage and .265 on-base percentage this postseason.
The Yankees wound up hitting .157 in the ALCS (22-for-140), striking out 36 times in the four games, and .188 in the postseason (60-for-320), striking out 83 times in the nine games. "A lot of guys in the lineup got cold at a really bad time, at the wrong time of the year," Cashman said.
The Yankees, generally a good fielding team, committed two errors in Game 4 and should have been charged with a third. And despite having their ace on the mound, they received the poorest starting pitching they've received all postseason.
That's a tough combination when a team is trying to come back from a 3-0 series deficit.
Robinson Cano, A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez went 19-for-172 (.110) with 57 strikeouts. "I don't think anyone pictured, going into it, things going like this," Granderson said.
The Yankees never led in the ALCS, not even for an inning. They scored in only three of 39 innings against the Tigers and scored more than one run in only one. Tigers pitchers had a 1.38 ERA in the series.
Yankees starters brought a 2.37 ERA in the 2012 postseason into ALCS Game 4, but CC Sabathia couldn't keep up the pace. Sabathia, coming off a stellar complete-game victory in ALDS Game 5, couldn't get out of the fourth inning. He allowed six runs, 11 hits and two walks in 32/3 innings, giving up a pair of two-run homers in a four-run fourth that gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
By that point, the Tigers had 11 hits, the Yankees none. By the end, the Tigers had 16 hits, including four home runs.
"You definitely give them credit," Teixeira said. "I'm always one to give credit to the other team when they do well. You take into account our struggles and them doing so well, and that's why you have such an anemic series offensively."
The usual culprits didn't get it done, led by Cano, who went 0-for-4 to finish the postseason 3-for-40, with one hit in his final 34 at-bats. Swisher, back in the lineup after being benched for Game 3, went 1-for-4, finishing the postseason 5-for-30. Rodriguez started on the bench again, though he pinch hit for Ibañez in the sixth. He flied out and added a groundout in the ninth to finish the postseason at 3-for-25.
"You never expect that, obviously," said Rodriguez, who expects to be back next season. "Terrible way for the season to end. I think they threw the ball really well, outplayed us in every facet of the game. They were the better team."
"There is only one team that's going to be happy when the year ends," Joe Girardi said. "But they did a lot of good things and they overcame a lot. We know we fell short. We understand that. But how do we get better? That's my message. How do we all, including myself, how do we all get better next year so we don't have this feeling."