A.J. Burnett may have gotten the win, but it was the reemergence of the Yankees hitters that staved off elimination Tuesday in a 10-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, swinging the ALDS back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5.
Burnett overcame a rocky start to pitch five and two-third innings, giving up only a run, four hits and striking out three at Comerica Park. His only scare came in the first when he loaded the bases on walks and then Detroit’s Don Kelly hit a rocket towards center field, forcing former Tiger Curtis Granderson to make a leaping catch–falling backwards to retire the inning and prevent three runs from scoring. After all the trepidation, Burnett escaped the inning and managed to settle down. Other than the Tigers’ Victor Martinez homer to right field in the fourth, the shaky Yanks pitcher came out unscathed and gave New York the start they needed in a must-win game.
Tuesday night wasn’t as kind for Tigers’ starter Rick Porcello. The losing pitcher battled for six innings, allowing four runs, five hits and an intentional walk. Yankees Captain Derek Jeter bounced back from a game-ending strikeout in Game 3, as he put New York ahead (2-0) with a two-run double in the third inning. Granderson contributed an RBI double in the fifth, scoring Brett Gardner and advancing Jeter to third. Alex Rodriguez, who was hitless in the series, added a sacrifice fly to center allowing Jeter to score, pushing the Yanks lead to 4-1.
Rafael Soriano relieved Burnett in the sixth inning. Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta hit a shot to left-center field, and Granderson, for the second time in the game, made an unbelievable diving catch–hands down the play of the game–sliding across the outfield on his stomach after making the grab. The Yankees bullpen, and Burnett, stood up and applauded their center fielder and AL MVP candidate for his spectacular play. Then, the Bronx Bombers’ bats exploded in the eighth. The Yanks scored six runs, with Robinson Cano pulling in two RBIs, to extend their lead to 10-1, evening the ALDS at two games apiece to reclaim home-field advantage.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Yankees lost five consecutive postseason road games when facing elimination, starting with Game 7 of the 2001 World Series at Arizona. Detroit eliminated New York in Game 4 of the ALDS in ’06, but couldn’t repeat history on this night.
Game 5 of the ALDS is set for Thursday night in New York, in a win-or-go-home finale. Stellar rookie-pitcher Ivan Nova will take the mound for the Yanks and Doug Fister will start for Detroit.