The Detroit Tigers took the lead on Delmon Young's ringing double in the 12th inning. Then came the blow that really staggered the New York Yankees.
A little grounder up the middle left Derek Jeter sprawled in the dirt, screaming in pain. The Yankees had lost more than the AL championship series opener — they had lost their captain for the rest of the post-season with a broken left ankle.
'They talked about a three-month recovery period. Won't jeopardize his career, but he will not be playing any more for us this year.'— Yankees manager Joe Girardi on Derek Jeter
Detroit's 6-4 win and Jeter's injury on Saturday night capped a game of wild swings and wild swings of emotion.
"Watching Jete go down was, and still is, a very difficult moment for us as a team and what he means to us, a great player and the great leader that he is," said Raul Ibanez, who hit yet another tying home run as the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the ninth inning.
Jeter rolled when he reached down in an attempt to glove Jhonny Peralta's grounder up the middle in the 12th, planted his left foot and tumbled, landing on his stomach. Unable to move, he made a backhand flip toward second baseman Robinson Cano — the same motion he made in the famous play against Oakland 11 years ago.
Jeter was down for about a minute and was helped up, then assisted to the dugout with manager Joe Girardi on his left and trainer Steve Donahue on his right.
"They talked about a three-month recovery period," Girardi said. "Won't jeopardize his career, but he will not be playing any more for us this year."
Jeter, who extended his career record earlier in the game with his 200th post-season hit, has been playing with a sore left foot for weeks. He joined closer Mariano Rivera on the sidelines. Rivera tore a knee ligament in May while shagging fly balls before a game in Kansas City.
"It is kind of a flashback to when Mo didn't get up," Girardi said. "Oh, boy, if he is not getting up, something's wrong. We have seen what he played through in the last month and a half, and the pain he has been in, and how he found a way to get (through) it. So it brought back a flashback for me."
Still, without Rivera, the Yankees won the AL East for the 13th time in 17 years.
"I think some people left us for dead when Mo went down, and here we are in the ALCS." Girardi said. "And Jete is going to tell us, 'Let's go."'
Eduardo Nunez will fill Jeter's roster spot, with Jayson Nix likely taking over at shortstop.
"We've got to win this series. Somebody's got to step in and fill that spot," said Andy Pettitte, Saturday's starting pitcher.
Detroit was coasting toward a 4-0 win before the Yankees rocked Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the ninth.
Valverde has allowed seven runs in three playoff games and could lose his closer's role to Octavio Dotel.
"We really want to put our heads together and discuss it first, to be honest with you, and get together as a coaching staff and talk about it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Valverde is already looking toward his next possible appearance.
"There's nothing you can do. It's in the past. It's over, and you have to be ready for tomorrow," Valverde said. "I have confidence for me and for my team, and I'll be there to support my team."
Taking the punches
Ichiro Suzuki started the Yankees' comeback with a two-run homer with one out in the ninth, and the 40-year-old Ibanez hit another two-run drive with two outs. Three nights earlier, Ibanez hit a tying home run in the ninth against Baltimore in Game 3 of the division series and another homer in the 12th to win it.
"If we are going to be good enough, we have to be able to take a punch, and we took a big punch," Leyland said. "We took a right cross in the ninth inning but we survived it."
Young's one-out double off David Phelps, which followed a leadoff walk by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, sliced in right and eluded Nick Swisher, who appeared ready to dive but couldn't get his glove out when he realized the ball was closer to him than he had thought.
"I thought I had a great jump, but then I got caught in the lights, and I lost it for a few seconds," Swisher said. "I was completely blind. It's a helpless feeling. I really thought I could make that play."
Young drove in three runs, hitting an RBI single in a two-run sixth against Pettitte, and a solo homer in the eighth against Derek Lowe. That gave him a Tigers record six post-season homers, breaking a tie with Hank Greenberg and Craig Monroe.
"We're big leaguers. Things are going to happen," Young said. "The other team wants to drive Mercedes-Benzes and eat Morton's, too. ... We got back in to play the 10th inning. Everyone just regrouped, and basically a 0 0 ballgame."
Tigers rookie Avisail Garcia singled in a run against Boone Logan, and Andy Dirks added an RBI single in the 12th on a comebacker that glanced off Phelps' pitching hand.
Rookie Drew Smyly, who had started warming up in the third when starter Doug Fister took a line drive off his right wrist, got the win by pitching two scoreless innings, ending a 4-hour, 54-minute marathon.
In Game 2 on Sunday, New York will start Hiroki Kuroda, who will be pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his big league career. Detroit will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound.
Twenty-five of 42 previous Game 1 winners have gone on to take the AL pennant.
Before the 12th, the star of the night was Ibanez, the first player to hit three home runs in the ninth inning or later in a single post-season.
On Wednesday, he hit a tying shot as a pinch hitter, and three innings later became the first player to hit two homers in a post-season game he didn't start.
This made him the first player in baseball history with two tying ninth-inning home runs in a single post-season, according to STATS LLC. Cincinnati's Johnny Bench, in 1972 and 1976, had been the only player to do it twice in a career.
Fister escaped three bases-loaded jams in the first six innings — the first time in their 375 post-season games the Yankees stranded a trio of runners three times without scoring in any of those innings, according to STATS LLC.
Alex Rodriguez, back in New York's lineup following a benching in Friday's division series finale, was 0 for 3 and stranded six runners — striking out on three pitches with runners at second and third and no outs in the sixth as fans booed loudly.
Girardi sent up Eric Chavez to hit for A-Rod in the eighth, the third time Rodriguez was taken out early in the last three games he has played.
Not that A-Rod's teammates were any better. The Yankees stranded 13 runners and were 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position, leaving them at 10 for 45 (.222) in the playoffs.
Fister, who beat the Yankees in Game 5 of last year's division series, had a shaky start, walking the bases loaded in the first and allowing three two-out singles in the second.
Rodriguez bounced into a forceout that ended the first, with shortstop Peralta making a spectacular diving stop. In the second, Cano lined a ball off the inside of Fister's right wrist, and Peralta picked up the ball on a bounce and threw to first for the out. Both plays were so close that even replays didn't definitively show whether the calls were correct.
Detroit was so concerned about Fister's wrist that Smyly started warming up in the third. Fister changed from a short sleeve undershirt into long sleeves and stayed in the game for 6 1-3 scoreless innings. His finest moment came with Detroit leading 2-0 in the sixth. After fanning Rodriguez, he loaded the bases with a walk to Swisher, then struck out Curtis Granderson and Martin with breaking balls.
Fister allowed six hits, struck out five and walked four.
"It was a little stiff, little sore, but nothing too major," he said of his wrist. "I went in and checked it out, and made sure nothing was remarkably hurt. Put on some sleeves to keep warm, and went back out there."
Rodriguez was dropped to sixth in the batting order for the first time since the 2006 playoff finale against Detroit, but the key situations find the $275 million man no matter where he is. He is hitting .105 (2 for 19) with no RBIs in the post-season, going hitless in 15 at-bats against right-handed pitchers with 10 strikeouts. A-Rod hasn't homered in 87 at-bats since Sept. 14.
Cano (2 for 28), Granderson (3 for 23) and Swisher (3 for 23) also remained mired in deep post-season slumps, with Swisher's eighth-inning double the only hit among the three.
Making his record 44th post-season start, Pettitte gave up two runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Afterward, the Yankees clubhouse was as quiet as it ever is. The loss of Jeter weighed on the minds of his teammates more than the defeat,
"I think we probably feel more for him than anyone else because we know how important it means to him personally," Teixeira said.