Venezuelan right-hander Anibal Sanchez hurled seven shutout innings as the Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 3-0 on Sunday to seize command of their American League Championship Series.
The Tigers lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series that shifts to Detroit for Game 3 today. The winner faces either San Francisco or reigning champions St Louis in the World Series.
Sanchez surrendered only three hits, while walking three and striking out seven to baffle a struggling Yankees lineup that was without captain Derek Jeter, the star shortstop who broke his left ankle in a Game 1 loss on Saturday.
“I took it inning by inning, hitter by hitter. I feel good,” Sanchez said. “The team helped me. It was a good game for me and for the team. We need to keep winning. The Yankees are a good team. We can’t give them anything.”
The game turned on a botched pickoff call by second base umpire Jeff Nelson that allowed the Tigers to stretch a 1-0 lead to 3-0 in the eighth inning.
Omar Infante singled and took second on an Austin Jackson single, but only after overrunning the base and diving to get back.
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano tagged him before he reached the base, but Nelson ruled Infante safe, denying the Yankees an inning-ending out.
Instead, Infante scored on a single by pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia and Miguel Cabrera singled to send in Jackson, padding Detroit’s advantage.
“A little thing in baseball is big right now,” Cabrera said. “We have to take that.”
Video replays showed Infante should have been called out and Nelson ejected Yankees manager Joe Girardi on the bench boss’ 48th birthday for his vehement arguing of the errant decision.
After the game, Girardi made a plea for the expansion of limited video replay options in Major League Baseball.
“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort because he hustled to get to the play, but in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has got to change. These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see, and it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake.”
Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, a former Yankees manager, said the officials watched the replay and showed it to Nelson after the game.
“We saw he tagged him on the chest and made it before the hand got in,” Torre said. “He saw the replay and saw he made the wrong call.”
Even the ejection could not light enough of a fire in the Yankees’ bats to make the controversial call matter more.
Detroit reliever Phil Coke allowed only one New York hit over the final two scoreless innings for the hosts.
The Tigers plan to start ace pitcher Jason Verlander today. The 29-year-old right-hander went 17-8 with a 2.64 earned-run average and 239 strikeouts this season and in the playoffs he is 2-0 with a 0.56 earned-run average.
“Verlander is going to pitch well. Hopefully, we can give a lot of support,” Cabrera said. “We have to go out there and play hard.”
Detroit’s starting pitchers have not allowed an earned run in the past 29-2/3 innings, two outs shy of matching a playoff record.
New York starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda of Japan hurled five perfect innings, before Jhonny Peralta singled to center-field in the sixth and Detroit began the scoring in the seventh on a blunder by Cano.
Quintin Berry led off for the Tigers by bouncing a ball over the center-field wall for a ground-rule double, then took third base on a Cabrera single.
Prince Fielder struck out, but Delmon Young followed with a ground-ball to Yankee shortstop Jayson Nix, who flipped the ball to Cano at second base in hopes of turning a double play to end the inning and the threat. Cano grabbed the ball for the force-out, but dropped it as he tried to throw to first base to retire Young, allowing the batter to reach first base safely and Berry to cross the home plate to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Adding to Cano’s woes was his none-for-26 playoff hit drought, which has now become the longest playoff batting drought in major league history.