Verlander, Young give Tigers 2-1 lead over Yankees
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
DETROIT (AP) — All Justin Verlander could do was watch.
The Detroit ace was finally out of the game after a tireless, 120-pitch effort, and closer Jose Valverde was in trouble again. Two on, two out — and Derek Jeter batting.
"I'm just like 45,000 other people in the stadium at that point. I'm just sitting there," Verlander said. "Obviously, your heart is racing a bit."
Jeter swung and missed, striking out to end New York's final rally. The Yankees are now on the brink of elimination after Monday night's 5-4 loss to the Tigers. Verlander struck out 11 in eight gritty innings to help his team take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Verlander will keep watching and hoping when teammate Rick Porcello takes the mound Tuesday night to try to wrap up this AL division series. If the Yankees win, the decisive Game 5 will be in New York on Thursday night. Verlander didn't rule out the possibility that he could pitch again in the series — maybe in relief — but manager Jim Leyland figures his star has already done plenty.
"I try not to do anything foolish with any of my pitchers, let alone an arm like that," Leyland said. "You saw what a talent that is. I would say he's definitely done for this series."
The Yankees will be done for the year if they don't win Tuesday. Their hopes ride on A.J. Burnett, the $82.5 million pitcher who was so unreliable this season that he wasn't supposed to get a start in this series. A rainstorm changed all that when Game 1 was suspended Friday, forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.
Now it will be Burnett and Porcello in Game 4.
"People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I give them reasons here and there to doubt," Burnett said before Monday's game. "The bottom line is I have confidence in myself. My teammates have confidence in me."
Verlander started the opener against the Yankees on Friday night against CC Sabathia, but that game was halted after only 1½ innings, forcing both aces to wait until Monday for their first extended work of the series.
While Sabathia didn't make it through the sixth Monday, Verlander was still hitting 100 mph on the stadium radar gun in the eighth.
Valverde took over in the ninth — and another tense finish followed. The All-Star closer, who was perfect in 49 save chances this season, walked two and got a warning-track flyout before striking out Jeter to end it.
"It's not very comfortable with a guy that's got over 3,000 or so hits up there in that situation," Leyland said.
Trailing by four in the ninth on Sunday, the Yankees scored twice against Valverde before he got Robinson Cano to ground out with two on to close out a 5-3 victory in Game 2.
After two games in New York that took three rainy days to finish, Comerica Park was dry on Monday, with the exception of the fountains beyond center field. The Yankees managed two quick runs off Verlander in the first, but the 24-game winner settled down. He appeared to be laboring at times, allowing four runs, six hits and three walks, but Detroit produced just enough offense.
Brett Gardner tied it for the Yankees with a two-run double in the seventh, but Delmon Young answered in the bottom half with a solo homer off Rafael Soriano that gave the Tigers a 5-4 lead.
Young, obtained from Minnesota in a quiet trade Aug. 15, also homered off Sabathia in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium before the downpour Friday night.
Valverde, who threw 34 pitches in a non-save situation Sunday, was back for the ninth a day later. He had playfully declared the series was "over" after Game 2, and the Yankees nearly made him eat his words, but Jeter struck out swinging with runners at first and second.
"A good pitch to hit," Jeter said. "If I didn't swing at it, it would've been a strike anyway."
Sabathia allowed four runs and seven hits with six walks in 5 1-3 innings.
"I actually thought he made a lot of good pitches tonight and I thought the zone was a small zone," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "No disrespect to anyone, but that's what I thought. That's what I saw."
Verlander, who led the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts, was a bit erratic in his lone inning of work Friday, walking two and allowing a run before the rain ended his outing. The first inning went even worse for him Monday. Jeter hit Verlander's first pitch right back up the middle for a single, then Curtis Granderson's drive sailed over the head of Austin Jackson in left-center for an RBI triple.
Alex Rodriguez made it 2-0 with an RBI groundout.
Brandon Inge doubled to left-center in the third for Detroit's first hit, and Jackson walked. Ramon Santiago failed to get a bunt down but made up for it by lining an RBI single to left.
After Young's single, Miguel Cabrera — who homered and drove in three runs in Game 2 — came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. With the crowd on its feet waving white towels, Cabrera grounded into Detroit's third double play in three innings — but this one tied the game at 2.
Verlander found his groove during the middle innings, striking out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, with one out and a man on second, Santiago hit an RBI double to left-center to make it 3-2. Detroit added another run off Sabathia in the sixth. Jhonny Peralta followed Don Kelly's bunt single with a double to left that appeared to bounce off a pole in the fence, caroming strangely to the left while the runner came around to score.
After walking Jorge Posada with two outs in the seventh, Verlander stood behind the mound briefly to gather himself. It didn't work — he then hit Russell Martin in the ribs with one of his triple-digit fastballs, putting runners on first and second.
Gardner lined a 3-2 pitch from Verlander to left-center to tie it at 4.
But that was it for the Yankees, and now their season rests in the hands of Burnett, who went 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in the regular season.
"I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us tomorrow," Girardi said.