Tigers 2, Yankees 1: Justin Verlander, Phil Coke push Yankees to the brink of elimination

Leon Halip - Getty Images

The Tigers find themselves on the precipice of the World Series thanks not only to a brilliant Justin Verlander, but a clutch Phil Coke.


Final - 10.16.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 5 1
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 X 2 7 0
WP: Justin Verlander (3 - 0)
SV: Phil Coke (2)
LP: Phil Hughes (0 - 1)

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Justin Verlander pitched the Detroit Tigers to within one game of the World Series in a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees in ALCS Game 3. The Tigers have taken a 3-0 stranglehold on the series and can clinch a World Series berth Wednesday night.

Verlander didn't have his best stuff, only striking out 3. But he still pitched deep into the game, pulled after 8 1/3 innings and 132 pitches, receiving credit for his 3rd win of the 2012 post season. Phil Coke converted his 2nd straight save after saving just 1 game during the regular season. The Yankees Phil Hughes was pulled in the 4th inning due to injury, allowing 1 run, taking the loss.

Delmon Young's solo home run and Miguel Cabrera's RBI double accounted for the Tigers' scoring. Eduardo Nunez's 9th inning home run was all the offense the Yankees could muster out of 5 hits.

The 1st inning was more of the same for the post season version of Justin Verlander. A quick 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout of the always dangerous Ichiro. Best of all, no lead off home runs!

Bottom of 1, Austin Jackson swung at the first pitch and grounded out. Quintin Berry actually took a couple pitches, lining a 1-2 shoulder high fastball into center, the game's first base runner. There would be no trying to jinx a possible no-no, unlike game 2.

After Cabrera's can of corn to right center, Prince Fielder worked a base on balls. With a runner in scoring position, Young lined out to right to end the inning. The Tigers didn't score, but Yankees starter Phil Hughes had to work through an 18 pitch inning.

Top of 2, Verlander set down both Robinson Cano (mired in the slump of all slumps) and New York cult hero Raul Ibanez on 6-3 ground balls. First pitch swinging, Russell Martin sent a foul pop toward the New York bench, Alex Avila coming up with a marvelous catch while nearly falling over the dugout railing, ending the inning.

Hughes countered Verlander's 1-2-3 inning with one of his own in the bottom of the 2nd.

Verlander was rolling in the 3rd. Eric Chavez, in for a benched Alex Rodriguez, flew out. The struggling Curtis Granderson waved at high heat for strike 3. Derek Jeter's replacement, Nunez, sent a can of corn to Andy Dirks to end a very quick inning.

Verlander was at a very efficient 33 pitches through 3 innings.

After 1 was down in the 3rd, Jackson slapped a single to right. Berry laid down a hard bunt toward 3rd that didn't appear to be a sacrifice attempt. Chavez's throw wasn't the best, forcing Mark Teixeira into the base path, but nipped Berry, Jackson advancing to 2nd. Berry wasn't credited with a sacrifice.

Cabrera at the plate and 2 down, Jackson moved to 3rd on a passed ball. Cabrera fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it to 3-2. Sitting on a breaking ball, Cabrera absolutely crushed a liner, but foul. Not wanting to take a chance, Hughes threw a low and outside breaking ball. Cabrera refused to fish, taking a walk.

Pitching carefully to Fielder, Hughes fell behind in the count 3-0. Given a meatball over the plate, Fielder had the green light and hit the ball on the screws...but it was a liner right at Granderson, ending the inning.

At the very least, Hughes was being taxed (51 pitches) and was getting a little lucky. Cabrera and Fielder both hit the ball hard, but at the wrong spots.

Gardner gave Verlander his first battle of the night, popping up to Avila on a 3-2 count after an 8 pitch at bat. Ichiro ran the count 3-2, then slapped a change up past Jhonny Peralta for the Yankees' first hit. Verlander had set down 10 consecutive Yankees to that point.

The Tigers put the shift on for Teixeira, who hit a foul pop near 3rd base. Cabrera, who had been playing shortstop, but much closer to 2nd base, ran the ball down as he reached the dirt near the fence along the 3rd base line.

Leading off the 4th, Young cranked on hanging curve, lining a bullet into the Tigers' bullpen for a solo home run and 1-0 lead. It was Young's 2nd big fly of the post season.

A stunned Hughes walked Andy Dirks on 4 pitches. After throwing 2 pitches to Peralta, the Yankees pitching coach and trainers checked on Hughes, who had been shaking his arm. Just like that, Hughes' night was over. Word from TBS was Hughes had a lumbar issue.

Despite Cody Eppley warming up after the Young homer, the Yankees went with right-hander David Phelps in place of Hughes. Due to the injury, he was given all the time he needed to warm up.

Phelps immediately threw 3 straight balls to Peralta, making it 3-2. With Dirks running, Peralta hit a fly to the wrong part of Comerica, right center. Granderson hauled it in for the 1st out of what had been a very long inning.

Avila's low liner dropped in front of Ichiro, Dirks moving into scoring position. Infante flew to right for the 2nd out, leaving it up to Jackson to give the inning a crooked number. His 6-4 fielder's choice ended the inning, the Tigers having broken the ice on Young's home run.

Sitting for an extended length of time didn't affect Verlander. The Yankees went down in order in 5th inning, Verlander now at 68 pitches, 1 hit and only 2 strike outs. He had fallen behind on a few Yankees over the past 2 innings, elevating the pitch count. With so few base runners, Verlander really didn't need to crank up the strikeout pitches.

Bottom of 5, Berry's 2 hopper absolutely ate up Chavez, fielding the ball with his body, not his glove. The E-5 putting a runner on base for Cabrera. Berry swiped 2nd, moving into scoring position.

Count of 2-2, Cabrera drove an RBI double to the scoreboard in right center, Berry scoring easily. Off the crack of the bat, it appeared Granderson had a bead on the liner. The ex-Tiger was playing fairly shallow, taking a Berry-esque route as the ball just plain carried past him, perhaps not realizing just how hard Cabrera had hit the ball.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi quickly pulled Phelps for Clay Rapada. After Fielder bounced out 6-3, with 1st base open, Rapada intentionally walked Young. Dirks nearly made it a 3-0 game, but Nunez's diving stop and flip to Cano forced Young.

His job done, Rapada was yanked for Eppley. Peralta's can of corn ended the inning, the Tigers now holding a 2-0 lead.

Coming off another long half inning, Verlander fell behind Granderson 3-0. He pitched out of it, getting him to pop up on a 3-1 pitch. Nunez followed with a weak grounder to Fielder, Gardner with a soft line drive come-baker Verlander bobbled, then tossing to Fielder. Cue the PFP jokes!

After another 1-2-3 inning, Verlander's pitch count was 81 through 6.

Eppley still on the mound, Avila stuck out on 3 pitches leading off the bottom of the 6th. Infante ripped a line drive to left, the Tigers' 6th hit of the night. Jackson at the plate, Infante stole the Tigers' 2nd base of the night, moving into scoring position.

Jackson walked, setting the table for Berry...and giving Cabrera a shot with ducks on the pond as long as he stayed out of the double play.

Which meant it was time for another pitching change, Girardi calling on his 5th arm, lefty Boone Logan. Playing the match ups as he has all playoffs long, Jim Leyland called on Avisail Garcia to pinch hit.

Once again, Gracia didn't hit the ball hard, but found the right spot. Garcia was busted on the fists, but fought the pitch off, sending a liner over the head of Nunez. Infante had to hold for a second to make sure the ball wasn't caught, Gene Lamont held him at 3rd.

Could Infante have scored? We'll never know, the Tigers choosing not to challenge Granderson's arm. I sure the thinking was, why risk it with the Triple Crown winner due up next?

Cabrera had the bases loaded and chance to break the game wide open, Unlike Garcia, he hit the ball hard and right at someone. Cabrera's rocket of a 2 hopper was ole'd with a back handed stop by Chavez, who started a quick, devastating 5-4-3 double play.

After another long, yet fruitless half inning, Verlander fell behind the always irritating Ichiro, who would slap a single to right.

Verlander got Teixeira to fly out to left. He brought out the high 90's heat to strike out Cano. Two strikes on Ibanez, he just gets a piece of a breaking ball, but his back swing drilled Avila on the helmet. Ibanez smoked a one hop ground ball to 1st, Fielder making the grab and stepping on the bag, ending the inning.

Verlander finished the 7th with a pitch count of 101, in good shape to go 9 innings, if needed.

Logan remained in the game to pitch the bottom of the 7th. Fielder sent a can of corn to Ichiro, Young remembered who he really is and struck out, Dirks lined out to Gardner in left.

At least the inning was short, the first Tigers' half inning to not take a interminable amount of time since the 3rd. My only worrying regard to Verlander to this point had been his cooling off between long half innings with number pitching changes.

On to the 8th, where we saw more of Verlander being Verlander, once again setting the Yankees down in order. Martin grounded out to 3rd, Chavez flying out to center, Granderson ending the inning on a pop fly Peralta ran down in short left.

Verlander's pitch count was at a healthy 115. Beat writer reports had Joaquin Benoit and Coke warming up, no sign of the beleaguered Jose Valverde.

Bottom of 8, the first 2 Tigers went down quickly against Logan. Peralta hit a sharp liner to left, Gardner made a nice sliding catch to take away a single. First pitch swinging, Avila hit a much easier fly to Gardner.

Girardi just had to make one more pitching change, bringing on Joba Chamberlain to face Infante. He would fly out to Granderson in right center, ending the inning.

The stage was set for Verlander.

Top of 9, 3 outs to go, Verlander on the mound, light rain falling.

Nunez fell behind 1-2, then just missed an extra base hit, lining a change up a foot foul at the 345 mark in left. After fouling off a handful of pitches, Nunez lined a home run just over the glove of Dirks in left, making it a 2-1 game, the hearts of Tigers fans everywhere now in their throats. Give Nunez credit, it was the best at bat from either team all night long. It was the first run allowed by Verlander since Coco Crisp went yard in the first inning of ALDS Game 1.

Leyland made a visit to the mound, said a few words, then left Verlander to his own devices. As ti turned out, Leyland was telling his ace he was going to face only one more batter.

After another long at bat, Gardner bounced to Verlander on his 132nd pitch of the night. That was it for one Justin Verlander.

With a number of left-handers due up, Leyland called upon Coke, the ex-Yankee. For the 2nd consecutive game, the national spotlight was on the glorified LOOGY. On his left arm rode the hopes of Tigers Nation.

Ichiro bounced to 2nd for an easy out number 2.

Then it stopped being easy.

The switch-hitting Teixeira was the final Yankees hope. 2-2 count, Coke didn't get the call on an outside breaking ball. Full count, Teixeria hit a seeing eye ground ball single up the middle, beating the shift, Infante unable to flag it down.

Coke fell behind to Cano 2-0, then fought back to 2-2. Cano slapped a single to left, his hitless streak ending at a most inopportune time.

That brought up the heavy hitting Tiger Killer, Ibanez.

Appearing to get squeezed, Coke feel behind Ibanez 2-0 on pitches which were called strikes earlier in the night. Ibanez fouled off a pair of pitches, and for the 3rd straight batter, Coke was one strike away from ending the game, the count now full.

Showing the guts of a cat burglar, Coke threw a nasty 3-breaking ball, Ibanez went fishing.

Swinging strike 3!

The Tigers take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS!

Before the ALCS began, no one, and I mean no one, could have predicted a huge reason why the Tigers are one game away from the World Series is Phil Coke saving back-to-back games.

Here's your key figures from Game 3.

Justin Verlander - You just knew the reigning Cy Young and MVP was going to be lights out.

Miguel Cabrera - Damn straight the Triple Crown winner came through, as expected.

Delmon Young - Say what you will about Young as a player, he's done it before when the lights shine brightest.

And Phil Coke.

Sure, unheralded players have stepped up in the playoffs before. But, Phil Coke? Not 1, but 2 saves? Really? I'm at a loss for words.

Well, I do have 6.

Baseball sure is a funny game.

BULLETS:

Bullets are brought to you by Jack Morris, who could still go 9 innings.

Morris-1_medium

  • The Tigers lead the ALCS 3-0. Game 4 is 8:07 PM Wednesday, Max Scherzer starting for the Tigers against C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees need to win the next 2 games in Detroit to just take the series back to New York.
  • First impression of seeing the Tigers at home in the ALCS? There's quite a visual difference between a truly sold out Comerica Park in Detroit and a partially empty Yankee Stadium and a heavily tarp covered O.co in Oakland.
  • TBS pregame is all about a Yankees comeback.
  • John Smoltz on the Tigers' ace in the 1st inning: "Verlander's like an engine, cruise early, rev him up late."
  • Tigers radio color man Jim Price brought up the "art of pitching" twice while Verlander was facing Ibanez. If there was such a thing as the Jim Prince drinking game, everyone would have to guzzle.
  • Cabrera had to run a good 100 feet to track down Teixeira's foul ball. So much for the narrative of Cabrera having no range. He just needs time to get there..
  • Craig Sager of TBS reported Hughes was pulled due to a herniated lumbar disc in his back flaring up. Sager's source? He said he "overheard" what was going on in the Yankees dugout.
  • Twitter reports (from trusted source and BYB podcast guest @spacemnkymafia) had Jose Valverde warming up in the 5th inning. Being there was no other reason to be up other than to get some work in, there was no need for panic.
  • Smoltz on Verlander in the 5th, keep in mind he had allowed only 1 hit to this point: "Verlander not as sharp, but getting it done, Yankees getting stuff to hit." Ron Darling followed up with, "Hell of a line for a guy who isn't sharp!"
  • But to be honest, Verlander was sharper against the A's...but he was more than sharp enough for the slumping Yankees.
  • After seeing Granderson's inability to run down Cabrera's 5th inning double, the first thing I thing I thought was, "Austin Jackson would have had it."
  • The bottom of the 6th is baseball in a nutshell: Garcia doesn't hit the ball hard, yet loops a ball over short for a single to load the bases. Cabrera hits a shot, but it's a 2 hopper to 3rd for an inning ending GIDP.
  • Michigan native Jeff Daniels sung "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch. This not being New York City, TBS did not feel the need to televise it. But Ernie Johnson mentioned in the 8th, so...yeah.
  • After 8 innings, Verlander's streak of scoreless post season innings reached 23, tying Kenny Rogers' 2006 franchise record.
  • Detroit doesn't have a monopoly on tough catchers. All backstops are tough as nails.TBS showed Martin in a world of hurt, trainers working on his hand/thumb after his 8th inning at bat. Yet in bottom of the 8th, Martin was wearing the tools of ignorance, catching Logan.
  • As Verlander took the mound to start the 9th, the Comerica Park crown gave him a 47K plus standing ovation. Shades of Kenny Rogers in 2006.
  • Verlander's post season numbers: 3-0, 24 1/3 innings, 10 hits, 2 runs, 25 strikeouts, 5 walks. 0.74 ERA. Both runs were on solo home runs.
  • Cano's hitless streak ended after 29 at bats.
  • Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were benched. A-Rod never left it, Swisher was on deck when Ibanez struck out the end the game.
  • The Tigers starters ultimately went 37 2/3 innings without allowing a an earned run, a post season record. AMAZING.
  • Jim Leyland won't let his team get complacent: "We've put ourselves in a decent position, but that's all we've done."
  • Leyland talking about Coke: "That was the best curve he threw all year. He'll be off tomorrow."
  • Darling on Coke's final pitch: "He threw the slider of his life."

SCREEN CAPS:

Phil Hughes isn't impressed by Alex Avila nearly falling into the dugout to haul in Russell Martin's foul pop.

Avila_medium

Back in 1978, I had a running suit made of the same material as Craig Sager's jacket.

Sager_medium

Cano got the "in the neighborhood of 2nd base" call on Cabrera's GIDP in the 6th.

In_the_neighboorhood_medium

4 ROARS:

Justin Verlander: Without a doubt, the best pitcher in the game.

Delmon Young: Another playoff game, another big home run.

Miguel Cabrera: Hit the ball hard with only an RBI double to show for it. But it was a huge RBI double.

Phil Coke: 2 games, 2 clutch saves. The second wasn't as clean as the first, but it says "S 2" in the box score.

3 HISSES:

I'm not going to bother!

ALCS GAME 2 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Anibal Sanchez was brilliant in shutting out the Yankees on 4 hits in 7 innings. The Sanchize was rewarded with a runaway win in the PotG voting with 87%.

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