For Curtis Granderson and the Detroit Tigers, Game 2 of their American League division series with the New York Yankees was worth the wait.
Granderson batted in a pair of runs, including the go-ahead score with a triple in the seventh, to propel the Tigers to a 4-3 victory Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The win tied the best-of-five American League Division Series at a game apiece, with Games 3 and 4 scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Detroit.
Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe high-fives teammate Omar Infante after Monroe scored on a single by Marcus Thames in the second inning Thursday.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
"I hope in my heart everybody realizes we are a playoff team," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whose team led the AL Central all year before stumbling down the stretch to wind up with the wild card. "I'm not sure everybody believed that."
The teams are forced to play on three consecutive days due to inclement weather that postponed Game 2 from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon.
Granderson, who scored Marcus Thames with his decisive triple, also brought in Thames with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. The run buoyed Detroit after New York's Johnny Damon brought the home crowd to its feet with a three-run homer into the upper deck in right field.
"We never give up. That's the main thing," said Thames, a former Yankees draft pick who had three hits and batted in one run on the day.
Apart from Damon's blast, the powerful Yankees lineup was mostly punchless Thursday. No. 7 hitter Hideki Matsui collected three hits, but 4-5-6 batters Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez combined for seven strikeouts while failing to pick up a hit.
Despite the power outage, neither starting pitcher performed exceptionally well. Tigers ace Justin Verlander gave up three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. The hard-throwing rookie struggled with his control against the patient Yankees lineup, walking four batters while striking out five before getting the hook midway through the fifth.
"I just didn't like the fastball before that. It was 92," Leyland said. "I said, 'That's it. I'm going to make my move now.' "
Verlander agreed with the move.
"He's a great skip. When he comes out to take me out of a ballgame, I never second-guess him."
New York starter Mike Mussina scattered eight hits over seven innings while surrendering four runs. The veteran right-hander struck out five and walked none.
Tigers closer Todd Jones gave up a leadoff walk to Matsui before retiring the next two batters and getting Damon to pop out to shallow centre to end the game.
Thames puts Tigers on the board
Detroit opened the scoring in the second inning when Thames singled home Craig Monroe, who had reached base with a two-out ground-rule double.
The Yankees couldn't get to Verlander until the fourth, when Damon blasted a three-run homer into the upper deck in right to score Matsui and Jorge Posada.
Granderson chipped into New York's lead in the fifth by cashing Thames with a sacrifice fly to the weak-armed Damon in centre, and Carlos Guillen tied the game at 3-3 in the sixth with a homer into the right-field bleachers.
The Yankees failed to answer at the bottom of the inning, but Posada managed to chase Verlander from the game with a one-out single.
Detroit regained the lead in the seventh when Granderson scored Thames for the second time, bringing his teammate home with a triple to the gap in left-centre.
Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya took over for Jamie Walker, who had replaced Verlander, to record the final two outs of the seventh.
Zumaya hit 103 mph on the radar gun while pitching a perfect eighth, punctuating the inning by dealing Rodriguez his third strikeout of the game.With files from Associated Press