DETROIT - This American League Championship Series isn’t providing a lot of storylines for the Detroit Tigers.
There are only two and both are about pitching: The Great Starting Pitcher and The Awful Bullpen.
The Tigers read from both scripts Tuesday against the New York Yankees.
In the end, things worked out as the Tigers are now within one game of a World Series appearance thanks to a 2-1 defeat of the New York Yankees, giving Detroit a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Wednesday
Dominant starter Justin Verlander nearly went the distance, pitching 8 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball.
Phil Coke entered the game in relief of Verlander and was asked to preserve the win. He did it in the usual Tigers bullpen way: by giving the team respiratory trauma.
After getting Ichiro Suzuki to ground out, Coke gave up a pair of two-out singles to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Cano’s his was his first in 29 at-bats.
With visions of a blown save blowing in their minds, the fans at Comerica Park breathed a sigh of relief when Coke got Raul Ibanez to strike out on a nasty slider to end the game.
With another big-game victory under his belt, Verlander showed just how much he has grown as a pitcher.
“It’s a maturity thing,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s learned how to handle these situations and stay pretty calm in big game situations. No doubt about it, he’s matured a lot. When you reach that maturity point and with that kind of stuff, that is a pretty good combination.”Leyland visited the mount in the ninth after Verlander gave up a leadoff home run to Eduardo Nunez, but left his ace in the game.
“I think we both understood if there was trouble with a 130 pitches or so I would come out of the game,” Verlander said of he and Leyland. “He came out and I was hoping he wouldn’t take me out. He asked me if I could get one more out. I said ‘absolutely’ but I knew that was the end and I would be coming out (soon).”
It was Verlander’s third win of the post season and until the home run by Nunez, Verlander had gone 23 innings without giving up a run.
Verlander did say he was falling behind far too often and had to go with his fastball more than he liked Tuesday. The Yankees did what they do well, fouled off a lot of pitches making Verlander work.
“You look at our at-bats and there were some good at-bats tonight,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
“I think we ended up with three strikeouts, so our guys put the ball in play and tried to get on base. But you know, when you face Verlander, you know what you’re up against.”
The Tigers took a 2-0 after a Delmon Young home run -- his seventh in post-season play and the most by any Tiger in franchise history -- in the fourth and an RBI-double by Miguel Cabrera in the fifth.
The Yankees had to take starter Phil Hughes out of the game in the fourth due to a stiff back and went through five other pitchers in the game.
Down 3-0 in the series, Girardi was asked what the Yankees had to do to win.
“We have to outpitch them and outhit them. It’s pretty simple,” he said. “The one thing about this group that I’m very proud of is they have overcome a lot this year and there is nothing that has come easy for us.
“It has been a battle the whole year and they have found a way to get it done. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”
The last time the Tigers were in the World Series was in 2006 when they lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals. They last won the World Series in 1984.
The Yankees are in a world of trouble. They have their best shot at winning a game this series with CC Sabathia pitching Wednesday.
“We’re really fortunate (to be up 3-0) certainly,” Leyland said. “We put ourselves in a decent position, but that’s all we’ve done.”