DETROIT -- The Yankees' ice cold autumn will now give way to a winter of uncertainty, as their season concluded on Thursday with an 8-1 loss to the Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park.
CC Sabathia was rocked for six runs in 3 2/3 innings and the Yankees were held hitless into the sixth inning by Max Scherzer, as Detroit locked up the AL pennant and will advance to the World Series against either the Cardinals or Giants.
"You work a long time to get to this point, and to have it end abruptly, it is really, really difficult," manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't swing the bats. It wasn't one guy, it wasn't two guys, it was a bunch of guys. And it's hard to win when you don't score runs."
New York was swept for the first time in 36 consecutive postseason appearances; the last one came in 1980, when the Royals wiped out the Yankees in a best-of-five ALCS that led to George M. Steinbrenner's dismissal of manager Dick Howser.
The positions of Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman appear to be secure, but there are lingering questions to answer for an anemic offense that evaporated in October, hanging zeros on the scoreboard in 36 of 39 innings during the ALCS.
"It's certainly disappointing and hard to stomach how we played here recently, at the most important time of your year," Cashman said. "We felt we let the fans down in New York and each other at the same time."
Robinson Cano went hitless in four at-bats to finish the playoffs with a 3-for-40 showing, while Nick Swisher concluded with five hits in 30 at-bats and Alex Rodriguez wrapped up the postseason with a 3-for-25 mark.
"That's part of the game. You're not going to be great all the time," Cano said. "You have to give credit to the Tigers. They did a great job and beat us in four."
The Yankees never held a lead in the series and pushed runs across in just two ALCS frames -- the ninth innings of Games 1 and 3 -- before Swisher doubled home Eduardo Nunez in the sixth inning.
"It's really tough," said Swisher, who is eligible for free agency and has likely played his final game as a Yankee. "We went out there and gave it everything we had. It just wasn't good enough."
Pitching on a short leash due to late-season shoulder issues, Scherzer was lifted by Tigers manager Jim Leyland after 5 2/3 commanding innings of 10-strikeout ball. No matter; the Yankees were done hitting, limping into the offseason managing just two hits in the contest.
"If someone would have told me we would sweep the Yankees in this series, I would have told them they were crazy," Leyland said. "A little luck, some pretty good pitching and a couple of hits at the right time. Sometimes you get on a roll that's pretty good."
The Yankees had the pitching part covered in the ALCS, as Sabathia's start was their only clunker, but they batted just .157 as a team against the Tigers. Only the 1969 Twins (.155) have posted a lower team average in the ALCS.
"You're crushed," Rodriguez said. "Obviously you work eight months to get to this point. I know there are a lot of teams that would love to get in this position in the ALCS with an opportunity to go to the World Series, but we just came up short."
Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers to power a four-run fourth inning, knocking Sabathia out as a towel-waving crowd celebrated an imminent victory.
"It's embarrassing to me to come out and not give our team a chance to win," Sabathia said. "I pride myself on trying to give us a chance and I didn't do that tonight."
Sabathia didn't have much help from his defense. Third baseman Eric Chavez didn't charge a first-inning Omar Infante grounder for an infield hit, opening the door as Prince Fielder delivered a two-out single and ALCS MVP Delmon Young cashed the Tigers' first run with an RBI single.
Sloppy defensive work from first baseman Mark Teixeira, who committed just one error during the entire regular season, also led to a third-inning run. Teixeira booted a one-out Fielder hit and later muffed an Andy Dirks grounder, setting up Avisail Garcia's infield single.
"It's just bad timing," Teixeira said. "It's really bad timing for four games like this."
Sabathia refused to point fingers after the 93-pitch outing, which was his first flop of the postseason after turning in dominant work in Games 1 and 5 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles.
It was suggested that Sabathia's 121-pitch, complete game workload in the Game 5 clincher might have sapped something from the ace's left arm, but Sabathia wasn't about to use that as an excuse.
"It came down to one game to extend our season and I wasn't able to do that," Sabathia said. "I felt good. I felt good enough to pitch tonight and take the ball, and I wasn't good."
Benched in three games and pinch-hit for in three others this postseason, A-Rod had a chance for redemption in the sixth inning when he was sent up as a pinch-hitter against lefty Drew Smyly, but Rodriguez flew out to center field to leave two men on.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Rodriguez said. "I just didn't get it done."
Austin Jackson padded Detroit's lead with a seventh-inning homer off reliever Derek Lowe, and Peralta practically uncorked the bubbly with his second homer of the game off David Robertson in the eighth.
"It's difficult, it's disappointing," Cashman said outside a near-silent Yankees clubhouse. "It's not where we want to be."
With Yankee Stadium's lights officially powered off for baseball in 2012, the Yankees must now regroup and ponder what went wrong after winning an AL-best 95 games during the regular season, using the winter to reboot their pursuit of the franchise's 28th championship title.
"This is never easy," Girardi said. "There is only one team that's going to be happy when the year ends. We know we fell short. We understand that."