Tigers escape from New York
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter screams as he injures himself fielding a ball hit by Detroit Tigers' Jhonny Peralta during the 12th inning of Game 1 of their MLB ALCS playoff baseball series in New York, October 13, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Escape From New York was a movie. Strictly fiction. The baseball version authored by the Detroit Tigers Saturday night is real.
After making one of those incredible comebacks that have already turned these 2012 playoffs into can’t-miss entertainment, the Yankees saw it all go for nothing as the Tigers rallied for a 6-4 victory in the 12th inning.
Worse for the Yankees, they lost their heart and soul, captain Derek Jeter, with a broken left ankle after he tried to field a ground ball in the middle that 12th inning Detroit rally.
“It’s pretty emotional,” said manager Joe Girardi. “There is great disappointment we didn’t win the game. There is great disappointment that our captain and leader went down for the rest of the year. But we’ve been through disappointing times before. We have to find a way to get it done.”
The Tiger win came after they had blown a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning when Jose Valverde gave up a pair of two-run home runs, one by Ichiro Suzuki and the other by Raul Ibanez, who is turning October into his own private highlight reel.
“We’ve been taking punches all year,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. “If we are going to be good enough, we have to be able to take a punch and we took a big punch. We took a right cross in that ninth inning, but we survived it.”
The Tigers didn’t wilt. They held on until the 12th and then made their move. It all started when reliever David Phelps walked Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera went to second on a groundball out by Prince Fielder. Then Delmon Young delivered his third RBI of the game with a double to right field, with Cabrera scoring the go-ahead run.
“We’re big-leaguers,” said Young. “We’ve been in situations like this before. When we got back to the dugout, we were sudddenly back in a scoreless tie and that’s the way we treated it.”
Peralta then hit a ball that Jeter made an awkward dive to catch, twisting his leg in the process. With Jeter unable to make a play, Don Kelly, running for Young, scored Detroit’s sixth run. Drew Smyly took out the Yankees in order to end the game.
VALVERDE'S FATE IN QUESTION
The Tigers took what looked to be a comfortable 4-0 lead into the ninth, but then again, in this playoff season of miracle comebacks, no lead has been safe.
After Suzuki belted a one-out, two-run home run off Valverde, to cut Detroit’s lead in half, the struggling closer struck out Robinson Cano for the second out, but then walked Mark Teixeira. Ibanez, hitter of two home runs in an amazing comeback win Wednesday against Baltimore, waited in the on-deck circle, a situation that cried out for a lefthanded reliever.
Leyland left Valverde to face the hottest hitter the Yankees possess. Ibanez looked at a strike then knocked the next one out of the park to tie the game.
After the game, Leyland indicated that Valverde’s role as closer is at least under review and probably over, at least for the time being.
“We are going to have a discussion,” he said. “We need to put our heads together as a staff.”
Lost in this horrendous Tiger bullpen meltdown was a remarkable tightwire act by Detroit starter Doug Fister.
Three times in the first six innings Fister loaded the bases full of Yankees and three times he sent them away empty-handed. Meanwhile, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young stroked back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth inning to break a scoreless deadlock. Young belted a solo home run in the eighth and Avisail Garcia delivered an RBI single in that same inning to put Detroit up 4-0.
It wasn’t enough.
Fister worked into the seventh inning, allowing six hits and four walks, striking out five, including four of the last six batters he faced.
Fister loaded the bases in each of the first two innings and while he escaped without allowing any runs, he put himself in peril of an early exit by requiring himself to throw 47 pitches to get six outs.
Yankee starter Andy Pettitte began with two low-stress innings, needing less than half as many pitches to get his first six outs.
However, by the time the Tiger sixth inning was in the books, Pettitte had thrown more pitches than Fister and the Tigers had a 2-0 lead, with all the damage coming in the sixth.
Austin Jackson led off the inning with a weird triple on a ball he hit just inside the bag at first. It sliced into a small alcove on the low wall in short right field and bounced back toward the infield. By the time it had been retrieved, Jackson was on third. After Jackson stayed put on a medium fly ball hit to right field, Cabrera was walked intentionally. Fielder foiled the strategy by lining a single into centre to score Jackson. Young then followed with a single into right field that cashed Cabrera from second base before Pettitte got the last two outs.
In the bottom of the inning, Tiger second baseman Omar Infante couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a routine grounder, allowing Mark Teixeira to reach base. Ibanez then doubled over the first base bag. After Rodriguez struck out to a chorus of boos, Swisher walked, loading the bases for Curtis Granderson. Granderson struck out to an even louder chorus of boos. Fister then fanned Russell Martin, leaving the Yankees and a less-than-capacity crowd stunned and angry, at least for the moment.
After Suzuki’s one-out single in the seventh, Jim Leyland went to his bullpen to bring in lefty Phil Coke to face Cano. Cano took a first strike, then fouled off seven consecutive pitches before hitting a little dribbler in front of the plate for the second out. Coke then got Teixeira on a comebacker to get out of that inning.
In the top of the eighth, Young looked at ball one from reliever Derek Lowe, then belted the next pitch into the left field seats, just inside the foul pole. Later in the inning, Avisail Garcia’s single into centre cashed Peralta from third for Detroit’s fourth run.
Coke worked a clean inning, then handed off to Joaquin Benoit in the bottom of the eighth.
Little did anyone know that the ballgame had only just begun at that point.