DETROIT – Justin Verlander struck out 11 in eight gritty innings and Jose Valverde stopped a New York Yankees rally for the second straight night, whiffing Derek Jeter with two on to close out Detroit’s 5-4 victory Monday.
Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking homer in seventh off Rafael Soriano and the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five American League playoff, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.
Their hopes ride tonight on A.J. Burnett, the $82.5 million pitcher who was so unreliable this season that he wasn’t supposed to get a start in this series. A rainstorm changed all that when Game 1 was suspended Friday night, forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.
“Trust me, they’re not going to go away,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We’ve put ourselves in a decent position, but we’ve still got more to accomplish. So this is a long way from being over.”
Verlander and New York ace CC Sabathia were back on the mound after their series-opening matchup at Yankee Stadium was halted after only 1 1/2 innings.
While Sabathia didn’t make it through the sixth Monday, Verlander was still hitting 100 mph in the eighth inning.
“There’s so much adrenaline in a situation like this,” he said. “I was a little out of rhythm in the first, and then found it, and then lost it for three batters, and it shows what this lineup can do. I lost my rhythm for three batters and they scored (two) runs to tie the game. But this team has a never-say-die attitude. We’ve done it all year. Come from behind. We’ve held leads. We’ve done everything we’ve had to do, and tonight’s another example of that.”
Valverde took over in the ninth – and another dramatic ending followed. The All-Star closer, who was perfect in 49 save chances this season, walked two and got a warning-track flyout before striking out Jeter to end it.
“It’s not very comfortable with a guy that’s got over 3,000 or so hits up there in that situation,” Leyland said.
Trailing by four in the ninth on Sunday, the Yankees scored twice against Valverde before he got Robinson Cano to ground out with two on to close out a 5-3 win.
“Every now and again he does that, but we’ve got the utmost faith in him,” Verlander said. “He’s done it all year long. What a job he did, especially after throwing 30-some pitches last night. You know, that’s not easy.”
. The Yankees managed two quick runs off Verlander in the first, but the 24-game winner settled down. He appeared to be laboring at times, allowing four runs, six hits and three walks, but stayed in for 120 pitches and Detroit produced just enough runs.
Brett Gardner tied it for the Yankees with a two-run double in the seventh, but Young’s line drive that barely cleared the wall in right gave the Tigers the winning margin.
• Box score, B4