ALCS: Tigers push Yankees to brink

‘ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC’::Detroit ace pitcher Justin Verlander surrendered only two singles over the first eight innings, both to Ichirio Suzuki, as the Tigers aim for a sweep

AFP, DETROIT, Michigan

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - Page 20

Justin Verlander shut out the New York Yankees for eight innings and the Detroit Tigers held on for a 2-1 victory on Tuesday that put them within one win of reaching the World Series.

After ace Verlander gave up a home run in the top of the ninth inning, Phil Coke came to the mound for the Tigers and finished off a triumph that gave Detroit a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s bid to ignite his team by shaking up the lineup — again benching superstar Alex Rodriguez and also slumping Nick Swisher — proved to be in vain.

A solo homer by Delmon Young and an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera proved to be all the offense Detroit needed with Verlander on the mound.

Over the first eight innings, the right-hander surrendered just two singles — both to Ichiro Suzuki.

Eduardo Nunez ended Verlander’s run of 23 straight scoreless innings with a leadoff homer in the ninth, and Verlander, his pitch count rising, was pulled after retiring Brett Gardner on a groundout.

“[New York] is a tremendous hitting team with big-time power and it’s a difficult lineup to manage against,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “So I thought [Verlander] was absolutely terrific.”

Coke, pitching in light rain, induced Ichiro to ground out, then allowed the potential go-ahead run on base before striking out Raul Ibanez to end the game.

New York’s Mark Teixeira bounced a single up the middle, and Robinson Cano ended an 0-for-29 slump at the plate by smacking a single to left.

That brought up Ibanez, who homered twice in game one of the series. After he fouled off a three-and-two pitch, he struck out swinging.

The Tigers were to send Max Scherzer to the mound yesterday as they tried to complete a sweep, with New York counting on ace C.C. Sabathia.

The winner of the series will face either San Francisco or St Louis in the World Series.

Even before Game 3, Girardi clearly felt the Yankees needed some extreme motivation.

Rodriguez, a three-time league Most Valuable Player, was replaced by Eric Chavez in the lineup, while Swisher was replaced by Gardner — who was making his first start since April 17.

Chavez went 0-for-3 and Gardner was hitless in the leadoff spot.

“I don’t call it desperate, we’re down 2-0, but there’s an extended period of time that opportunities have been given and now we’re going to give it to some other people who are legitimate, major-league guys that can contribute,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of the lineup changes before the game.

Girardi had to go to his bullpen early as well after starter Phil Hughes exited in the fourth inning with a stiff back.

Hughes had given up the homer to Young to open the fourth.

He walked Andy Dirks on five pitches, but was ahead in the count against Jhonny Peralta when he signaled the dugout.

Girardi and assistant trainer Mark Littlefield went out to the mound and Hughes was taken out.

Yankees reliever David Phelps was on the mound in the fifth, when Detroit added another run, aided by Chavez’ error on a ground ball that let Quintin Berry reach first.

Berry stole second and scored on Cabrera’s double over Curtis Granderson in right center field.