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Sports

Tigers Hold Off Late Rally, Knot Series at 1-1 with Yanks

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Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) and relief pitcher Jose Valverde (46) celebrate after New York Yankees' Robinson Cano (24) grounded out in the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball's American League division series to give the Tigers a 5-3 win on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) and relief pitcher Jose Valverde (46) celebrate after New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano (24) grounded out in the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball’s American League division series to give the Tigers a 5-3 win on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees failed to
finish off their rally in the rain.

Better bounce back quickly, though. Justin Verlander is on deck
for Detroit, and it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll pitch more than one
inning this time.

Max Scherzer held the Yankees hitless until the sixth, Miguel
Cabrera drove in three runs and the Tigers beat New York 5-3 Sunday
to tie their best-of-five American League playoff at a game apiece.

Shut out until the eighth inning, the Yankees tried to fight
back on solo homers by Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Jorge
Posada hit his first postseason triple in the ninth and Detroit
catcher Alex Avila slipped on a slick on-deck circle, preventing
him from catching a foul popup for the final out.

That seemed to be just the break New York needed to complete a
stirring comeback from a four-run deficit. But closer Jose
Valverde, perfect in 49 save chances this season, retired Cano on a
grounder with two on to end it.

“After the Granderson popup, where the catcher slipped, I said,
`Wow, this might be our inning, we might have a break there,”’
Mark Teixeira said. “But you can’t come through every single time.
Robby’s been so big for us all year long and you guys saw what he
did yesterday. It’s just tough to score a lot of runs off a closer
like that.”

Derek Jeter made a costly error at shortstop for the Yankees and
went 0 for 5. He struck out twice in key spots in the late innings.

Scherzer silenced Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of a New
York lineup that scored nine runs in the series opener. The
right-hander was working on a no-hit bid until Cano blooped a
single in the sixth.

“He throws the ball hard. He pitched extremely well today,”
Jeter said. “He’s been tough on us in the past and he was tough on
us again.”

The series shifts to Detroit on Monday night, with no day off
for travel because Game 1 was suspended by rain Friday and then
completed Saturday. Verlander (24-5) gets the ball at spacious
Comerica Park, looking to follow up on a dominant regular season
that earned him the pitching version of a Triple Crown and a place
in the MVP discussion.

Better bring those bats. Because if the Yankees don’t win Game
3, the season rides on the unreliable arm of A.J. Burnett in Game
4.

“It’s huge. Tomorrow’s a really big game. You don’t want to go
down 2-1 with them having a chance to close it out at their home
park,” Teixeira said.

The good news for New York is that its own pitching star, CC
Sabathia, will be back on the mound Monday as well. He and
Verlander squared off Friday in a highly anticipated matchup that
lasted only 11/2 innings.

Aces, interrupted. Now, they meet again.

“It should be a fun one to see those guys go to work against
each other,” Granderson said.

The Yankees, however, would like to give Sabathia more support
than they offered soft tosser Freddy Garcia, who held Detroit in
check for five innings. He gave up a two-run homer to Cabrera that
barely cleared the right-field fence in the first.

The Tigers cashed in on Jeter’s throwing error in the sixth,
chasing Garcia with RBI singles by Cabrera and Victor Martinez that
made it 4-0.

Teixeira went 0 for 4 and never hit the ball out of the infield.
A banged-up Rodriguez was booed after an eighth-inning popup
dropped him to 0 for 8 in the series.

“No big deal. We’re really focused on the goal here,”
Rodriguez said. “There’s no need to even get emotional. You’ve got
to stay in the moment.”

What he needs, perhaps, is time to get healthy _ and that’s not
available in October.

Hampered by nagging injuries to his knee and thumb, A-Rod
finished the regular season by batting .204 from June 29 on. Right
now, it doesn’t look as though he can turn on hard stuff inside
with any authority.

“This time of year nobody cares, nobody wants to hear about
banged-up,” said Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP. “I’m not worried
about it. The playoffs, every pitch is a different lifetime. You
can’t worry about what happened over the last month.”

Rodriguez’s slump in the cleanup spot is a growing problem for
the Yankees because Cano was recently bumped up from fifth to third
to get him more protection and pitches to hit.

“I don’t have any plans in changing my lineup,” manager Joe
Girardi said. “It’s only two games. I’m not going to make too much
of two games.”

The first hit Scherzer allowed was a soft single with one out in
the sixth by Cano, who had a grand slam and six RBIs on Saturday
night. New York never got going again until the Tigers’ bullpen
took over.

Even the early sunshine didn’t help the Yankees, who went 44-12
in day games this season _ the best winning percentage (.786) for a
major league team since 1900.

What began as a beautiful afternoon turned messy in the seventh,
when rain sent fans scurrying for cover as the Yankees tried to
rally.

A leadoff walk and Posada’s single chased Scherzer, who yielded
only two hits over six-plus innings in his postseason debut.

Russell Martin flied out and pinch-hitter Eric Chavez struck out
against Joaquin Benoit, who threw a called third strike past Jeter
to end the inning. Jeter, never animated when he argues, didn’t
like the call and stayed at home plate for a long discussion with
umpire Eric Cooper.

Jeter also fanned against Valverde for the second out in the
ninth. Swisher hit a leadoff homer that inning and Andruw Jones had
a sacrifice fly.

Granderson connected to start the eighth.

Five years ago, the Yankees won their playoff opener against
Detroit and then got shut down by Tigers arms for three straight
games. Cano and Co. don’t want that to happen again. But they
rarely threatened until the ninth on Sunday, and now there’s
another tough task on tap in Verlander.

“The road to a championship is never easy and we don’t expect
it to be,” Rodriguez said.

NOTES: The Yankees had won seven straight division series games,
including sweeps of Minnesota the past two years. … The
35-year-old Garcia made his first postseason appearance since
winning the Game 4 clincher in the 2005 World Series for the
Chicago White Sox at Houston. He dropped to 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in
10 postseason starts. … Scherzer is 3-0 with 2.84 ERA in three
regular-season starts against the Yankees. Two of those were
scoreless outings.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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