At this point, a game of see-saw would break out over the lead. The Yankees clawed back a run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a leadoff home run from Alex Rodriguez, then added two runs in the fifth to take a 4-3 thanks to a two run homer off the bat of Russell Martin. That state of affairs wouldn’t persist for long, however, as the Tigers struck for three runs in the sixth. Nova allowed a leadoff double by Jhonny Peralta and then a single from Ryan Raburn to put runners on the corners with no outs. Raburn would would take second base on a wild pitch, and old friend Autin Jackson would bring both home with a double, putting Detroit up 5-4. Nova would get Brennan Boesch out on a liner to Nick Swisher in rightfield, but after issuing an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, Nova’s night was finished, as Joe Girardi called on Boone Logan with the left-handed bat of Prince Fielder waiting at the plate.
Of course, the cynical amongst you can guess how that went, Fielder singled on a 1-1 fastball, bringing Jackson home to score and extend the lead to 6-4. The Yankees actually got extremely lucky in this inning, as things could have gone much worse. They got their second out as Cabrera attempted to take third base on that Fielder single, and Cory Wade would eventually get Alex Avila to ground into the third out with the bases loaded following a walk of Don Kelly by Logan and an error by Wade that allowed Brad Eldred to get on. Be that as it may, the Yankees would keep the deficit at two runs, and would get one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when Kelly couldn’t handle a hot liner off the bat of Raul Ibanez, bringing Nick Swisher in from second base following his ninth double of the season.
The Yankees actually managed to get into the Detroit bullpen in the seventh inning, but manager Jim Leyland went straight for the big guns, bringing in Octavio Dotel to face Russell Martin and Derek Jeter, then going immediately to lefty Phil Coke when Curtis Granderson came to the plate. Dotel got his men on a strikeout and a groundout, respectively (and Joe Girardi got ejected from the game for barking at, who but, home plate umpire Joe West over the called third strike against Martin, showing some downright impressive hops to jump over the bullpen railing to run on the field and give Cowboy Joe a piece of his mind afterwards), while Coke struck out Granderson on three straight pitches. Leyland then turned the game over to Joaquin Benoit in the 8th, but A-Rod and Robinson Cano started the inning with back to back singles off of the Tigers’ setup man and, with A-Rod taking third on Cano’s hit, Mark Teixeira was able to bring the tying run in with a deep flyball to centerfield. Benoit recovered to strike out Swisher and (following an intentional walk to Ibanez) Eric Chavez, but the Yankees had a tie ball game and Mariano Rivera coming in to keep the Tigers at bay.
Mo did his Mo thing, working a perfect ninth with a strikeout of Peralta wedged in between groundball outs from Avila and Ramon Santiago, and it was off to the bottom of the ninth with a distinct craving for pie in the Bronx. Being that the game was on the road at what not, Jim Leyland did what all wise crusty old managers know is best and eschewed using his closer, Jose Valverde, in favor of Brayan Villarreal. Villarreal did manage to get Russell Martin out on a 3-2 groundball to lead off the inning but, with the top of the Yankees’ lineup facing him, that would be the extent of his good fortune. Derek Jeter would work a walk before Curtis Granderson found himself in a full count (thanks, I might add, to some pretty nice 98+ MPH fastballs that Villarreal threw right past Grandy). With Jeter running, the 3-2 pitch came in low and away and skipped away from Alex Avila, allowing Jeter to advance to third and putting the winning run 90 feet away from the plate with A-Rod up to bat. With the way Alex was handling himself at the dish on this night, this was exactly what Yankee fans wanted to see, but it wou;dn’t matter who was up, as Avila would fail to handle another pitch, and Jeter would sprint home for the winning run. A walk off passed ball? Works for me.
The victory gets the Yankees back in the win column after dropping their final two games in Texas, and they have to feel pretty good knowing that “stole” the game Verlander started, considering the way the pitching matchups stack up for the rest of the series. More importantly, what a really fun game to watch.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod was locked in from the word go, and not even Verlander was enough to throw him off of his game. A-Rod got RBI hits in his first two at bats against the reiging Cy Young Award winner, including the fourth inning home run. He finished the night 3-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Derek Jeter: The Captain went 0-4, ending his hit streak at 15 games, but I’m putting him here for his ninth inning alone. Ahead 2-0 in the count, Jeter could have easily been fooled by a 95 MPH fastball with serious movement to the outer part of the plate and likely would have grounded out to the right side of the infield, but Jeter was able to hold back and take the strike, then take consecutive balls to work a walk. The rest of the inning hinged on his heads up base running, not hesitating to keep running down to third on ball four to Granderson, and getting an excellent jump to the plate on the passed ball that ended the game.
Joe Girardi: Seriously, the hop over the dugout railing was just flat out awesome, as was the look on his face as he was chewing out Joe West about as angrily as I can remember Joe giving it to an umpire since that time Marty Foster called Jeter out at third and admitted he didn’t care if Jeter had actually been tagged or not. Knowing West, that should make the rest of the weekend interesting.
Ivan Nova: I know the Tigers have a tough lineup but, man, when your team scores five runs off of Verlander you have to hold up your end of the bargain. His final line: 5.1 IP, 11 hits, six runs (all earned), three walks, and five strikeout. Dinner’s on him later.
Boone Logan: The Yankees’ number one left handed specialist faced two left handed batters, and retired neither of them. I can’t get too bent out of shape about giving up a single to Prince Fielder by any means, but walking Don Kelly with a 3-2 slider? Yeah, I wasn’t saying “Boooooone,” if you catch my drift.
The Yankees and Tigers are back at it in a late afternoon Fox affair tomorrow at the Stadium. Freddy Garcia will be making the start for the Yankees, as Girardi decided not to skip his turn in the rotation after two days off in the last week. At least he’s due for a good game?