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Monday, October 3, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Tigers 5, Yankees 4



Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: These words: A.J. Burnett. That is what the Yankees' season comes down to now after a heartbreaking, and maybe backbreaking, loss to the Tigers. Burnett versus Rick Porcello and for the Yankees it's win or walk, first pitch at 8:37 p.m. Despite a rough start, Justin Verlander turns in a big-time effort, outpitches CC Sabathia and now, the Yankees can't afford to lose another game or it's winter vacation time.

What can you say after you say you're Sori?: All things considered, Rafael Soriano had a pretty good outing. He put out the blaze Sabathia left behind in the sixth, and retired five of the six batters he faced. But one bad pitch, a cutter to Delmon Young that didn't cut, may well be the blow that knocks the Yankees out of the postseason. Young's seventh-inning solo HR turns out to be the difference in a tense, generally well-pitched ballgame.

The imperfect closer keeps his perfect record. Barely: Jose Valverde, 49-for-49 in the regular season, is now 1-for-1 in the postseason, but as usual, not without some drama. Nursing a one-run lead, Valverde walked Jorge Posada with one out, and barely kept Russell Martin in the park on a fly to the wall in right for the second out. Then, he walked Brett Gardner. But he blew a 94 mph fastball past Derek Jeter to end the game.

 So-So Sabathia: The Yankees' ace needed to come up huge tonight but Sabathia had control problems early and got hit hard later -- seven hits, three of them long doubles -- and lasted only 5 1/3 innings, forcing Joe Girardi to go to Seventh-Inning Guy Soriano an inning early. A high pitch count doomed Sabathia, who threw 28 in the first inning and 106 in 5-plus.

The no-strike zone: With plate umpire Gerry Davis, usually a good luck charm for Sabathia (6-0, 2.19 ERA with Davis behind the plate), calling a tight zone, Sabathia walked a season-high five batters in the first three innings and six overall.

Call him DP Sabathia: Despite the walks, Sabathia was racking up outs two at a time, escaping trouble in the first two innings by getting double plays and limiting the damage in a treacherous third inning -- the Tigers had the bases loaded, none out -- with another DP, although it did drive in the tying run of the game.

Justin Time: The Yankees roughed up Verlander early, scoring two first-inning runs, but the Tigers' ace settled down after that, allowing just three singles, one of them a bunt, over the next six innings. Verlander struck out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth.

Over the speed limit: Verlander lit up the radar gun with three pitches clocked at 100 mph in the first inning. Robinson Cano swung through one of them for strike three, Alex Rodriguez fouled off the second and put the third in play, grounding out to short but driving in the Yankees' second run of the inning.

That'll leave a mark: Verlander also hit 100 mph again several times in the seventh inning, and unfortunately for Russell Martin, he also hit the Yankees catcher in the ribs with one of those pitches. Martin stayed in the game but as the manager likes to say, it's not what you want. In a sense.

Gardner of Eden: Brett Gardner slapped a 100 mph fastball from Verlander into left-center to drive in two runs, tying the game at 4 in the seventh. Gardner also had a two-run single in Game 1 and has four RBIs in this series.

Welcome home, Grandy: They still love Curtis Granderson here, and Curtis repaid the love by lining a Verlander fastball over Austin Jackson's head in center field to drive in Jeter with the first Yankees run of the game.

 No cheapies here: Miguel Cabrera hit a ball 418 feet to dead center off Soriano in the eighth, only to see Granderson haul it in a good two feet in front of the fence, just a long and loud out.

What's next: See above. It ain't pretty.