The Detroit Tigers survived a four-run New York rally in the ninth to claim a 6-4 win in 12 innings in their playoff opener on Saturday, while the Yankees suffered an even greater blow as captain Derek Jeter was lost to injury.
The 38-year-old Jeter, in the midst of one his best seasons, broke his left ankle diving for a ground ball during Detroit’s game-winning rally and will be out for the rest of the post-season, the team said.
The victory gave Detroit a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Delmon Young doubled under the glove of diving Yankee right-fielder Nick Swisher to score Miguel Cabrera in the 12th for the go-ahead run, with Detroit adding another in the inning as the Tigers drew first blood in the series that puts the winner into the World Series.
Detroit led 4-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, before the silenced New York bats came alive against Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
Ichiro Suzuki’s two-run homer halved the deficit and another two-run blast by Raul Ibanez sent the game into extra innings.
“We have been taking punches all year,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters about bouncing back from the ninth-inning outburst. “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 the ninth inning, but we survived it.”
The Tigers shrugged off that shock and rallied in the 12th against New York reliever David Phelps, the eighth Yankee pitcher used, while holding them down thanks to the relief efforts of Octavio Dotel and Drew Smyly, who registered the win.
Young led the offensive charge for Detroit, going three-for-six with three runs batted in dealing New York a painful loss.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about the shifting feelings from the high of Ibanez’s game-tying home run to the low of Jeter’s season-ending injury. “There is disappointment that we didn’t win the game. There is disappointment that our captain and our leader went down for the rest of the year, but we’ve been through some disappointing times before ... we’ve only played one game and we have an opportunity to do something great.”
Detroit starter Doug Fister played the role of magician early in the game as he made a trio of bases-loaded jams disappear in holding the Yankees scoreless.
Fister dodged danger in the first and second innings with three runners on and two outs, then topped himself by escaping a bases loaded one-out threat in the sixth.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta rescued Fister with sparkling plays in the first and second innings and the bags full, while Fister extricated himself from sixth-inning danger by striking out Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin.
Detroit snapped a scoreless tie with two runs in the top of the sixth.
Former Yankee Austin Jackson led off the inning against New York’s Andy Pettitte with a twisting shot down the right-field line that hit the fence and stopped dead against the wall in foul territory, allowing Jackson to race to third for a triple.
After a one-out intentional walk to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder lined a run-scoring single to center and Young followed with a bloop base hit to right to score Cabrera for a 2-0 Detroit lead.
Detroit added two more runs in the eighth on a home run to left by Young and an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.