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In the battle of aces, it's Verlander over Sabathia: Tigers take control of series with 5-4 victory over Yankees

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DETROIT - OCTOBER 03: Jose Valverde #46 of the Detroit Tigers reacts in the ninth inning as the Tigers defeated the Yankees 5-4 at Comerica Park on October 3, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT - OCTOBER 03: Jose Valverde #46 of the Detroit Tigers reacts in the ninth inning as the Tigers defeated the Yankees 5-4 at Comerica Park on October 3, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Final - 10.3.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Yankees 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 4 6 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 2 0 1 1 1 0 X 5 8 0
WP: Justin Verlander (1 - 0)
SV: Jose Valverde (1)
LP: Rafael Soriano (0 - 1)

Complete Coverage >


Before you do anything else, inhale, then exhale. Great! You've started breathing again...

BOX

KEY STAT

CC Sabathia's shortest outing this season: 5 2/3 innings. Tonight, the Tigers knocked Sabathia out of the box after 106 pitches, 4 ER and only 5 1/3 IP.

Verlander wins the battle of aces.

KEY PLAY

This just in: Delmon Young loves to swing at the first pitch. LOVES THEM.

With the Tigers reeling from the Yankees' 2 run rally in the top of the 7th inning, Young's free swinging ways paid off in the bottom of the inning. Young jumped all over a Rafael Soriano fastball, dumping it over the right field wall for the winning run. (MLB video here)

It was his 2nd home run of the ALDS, as Young (2-3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB) continues his campaign to win Dave Dombrowski MLB's Executive of the Year award.

KEY THOUGHTS

Odd game for Justin Verlander. In fact, Verlander was THE story of the game. As he went, so went the Tigers.

In the 1st inning, just like early on in Friday's suspended game 1, he looked overly amped, throwing big time heat. Derek Jeter bounced a single to center. Curtis Granderson then drilled a high fastball to the deep reaches of right center field for an RBI triple. Granderson scored on a ground out and the Tigers found themselves in an unexpected 2-0 hole.

But after a rough start, it was the Cy Young lock-MVP candidate version of Verlander on the mound.

In the 5th inning, he was inhuman. (Click here for MLB video of Verlander's night, the 5th starts at 0:45 in)

I think wepri31 speaks for us all after Verlander's incredible, 10 pitch, 3 K, 5th inning:

holy hot damn.

cold showers for everyone!

Yahoo's Jeff Passan was flabbergasted as well:

I've been covering baseball for eight years now, and I'm not sure I've seen a more dominant inning than the one Justin Verlander just threw.

That's the inning the M-V-P chants started, and they continued anytime Verlander had 2 strikes on a Yankee...but then came the 7th.

Verlander had been in beast mode, on cruise control having struck out 6 of the last 8 Yankees, and easily got the first 2 outs of the 7th. Then, literally out of nowhere, he lost control while facing the bottom of the Yankees order.

There was a walk to a resurgent Jorge Posada, Russell Martin was hit by a 100 MPH pitch. Then, the unthinkable. On a 3-2 count, Brett Gardner, growing into a Tiger killer , doubled in the left center gap, tying the game at 4. Verlander ended the inning with a K of Derek Jeter, but the damage was done.You could feel the emotion drain right out of the crowd. It was drained out of me.

The emotion came right back when Young went yard in the bottom of the 7th, giving the Tigers a 1 run lead, and making Verlander the pitcher of record.

With Jauquin Benoit unavailable for 8th inning duty, it was obvious Verlander was coming out for the 8th. Save for a walk to Alex Rodriguez, Verlander was Verlandery again. His night ended after inducing Mark Teixeira to pop out to left to end the 8th.

Verlander's final line: 8 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 11 K. 120 pitches. He was throwing 100+ MPH in the 1st, and throwing 100+ MPH in the 8th.

Despite throwing what felt like 500 pitches in a monsoon Sunday, Leyland still went with his closer, Jose Valverde in the 9th. And as we all know, Valverde has been channeling his inner Todd Jones - Fernando Rodney as of late. Tonight was nothing different. No 1-2-3 inning for the Big Potato. He walked Posada with 1 out. After pinch runner Eduardo Nunez stole 2nd, Papa Grande walked Gardner...bringing up God's gift to the national media, Derek Jeter.

But there were no heroics for Jeter tonight. A struggling Valverde dialed up his fastball, and got Jeter swinging for the final out, his 50th consecutive save this season. It gave Verlander the win and most importantly, the Tigers a 2-1 series lead.

Other Tigers of note? It was the unsung role players who came through.

Austin Jackson didn't have a hit, but walked twice, running up Sabathia's pitch count in the process.Just as a lead off man should.

Brandon Inge singled, doubled, and scored 2 runs. No one saw this coming back in July.

Ramon Santiago singled in Inge in the 3rd, and showed off his sneaky power in the 5th, doubling home Inge. It was a 2-4, 2 RBI evening for Ramon.

Don Kelly's bunt single ignited a 6th inning rally, which was punctuated by Jhonny Peralta's RBI double. As the TBS crew said, "Kelly knew where to place that bunt!" Yep, right past the overweight pitcher who weighs at least 3 bills.

But in the end, the night belonged to Justin Verlander, with a big assist to Delmon Young.

So how are the Tigers chances now? The ALDS is on the line Tuesday night, it's win or go home for the Yankees, and they are sending A.J. Burnett to the mound. His ineffectiveness is the reason the Evil Empire elected to go with a 3 man rotation in the first place.

But this is playoff baseball, folks. The drama. The high blood pressure. The elation after a win. Thankfully, the Tigers ended up on the victorious side of what was a great, entertaining and extremely tense game.

Honestly, even with Yankees running Burnett to the mound, I'm expecting more the same Wednesday. I don't expect the Yankees to go down without a fight.