Game 2 of the Tigers/Yankees division series put Max Scherzer up against Freddy Garcia. And, if one were to look only at ERA, it would've looked like the Yankees had the edge. Garcia posted a 3.62 ERA during the year in a smaller park while Scherzer posted a 4.43 ERA during the year in a bigger park, and if you considered only that information, you might've thought, hey, the Tigers are in trouble.
But, of course, we don't consider only that information. ERA aside, Scherzer is a very good pitcher, and he proved that Sunday afternoon as the Tigers beat the Yankees 5-3 to even the series and take home-field advantage.
The Tigers got off to a roaring start in the top of the first, which I just realized as I typed this is an awful and accidental pun. With one on and two down, Garcia fell behind Miguel Cabrera 2-and-0, and then put a low slider over the plate that Cabrera blasted out to the opposite field. Just like that, Scherzer had two runs of support.
He nearly gave them away in the bottom half. Consecutive two-out walks brought Mark Teixeira to the plate, and Scherzer threw Teixeira three straight balls. But he recovered to get an inning-ending pop out, and from there, Scherzer settled in.
Garcia settled in, too. Very little happened for a long time. The score was 2-0 after one and 2-0 after five. Scherzer escaped a small jam in the fifth, but it was a jam of his own making, and through those first five innings, he actually held the Yankees hitless.
In the sixth, the Tigers picked up some critical insurance. Austin Jackson reached on a leadoff throwing error by Derek Jeter, moved to third on a single by Magglio Ordonez, and scored on a single by Cabrera. Victor Martinez's single past a diving Robinson Cano then scored another to make it a 4-0 ballgame.
The Yankees picked up their first hit in the sixth when Cano dropped a blooper in front of a sluggish Delmon Young in left, but Cano didn't score, and so it was still 4-0 in the seventh. Finally in the seventh the Yankees chased Scherzer from the game when their first two batters reached, but in came Joaquin Benoit from the bullpen, and out went the fire. Benoit handled the seventh even though he's been the Tigers' eighth-inning setup man all year, and he did the job by recording crucial strikeouts of Eric Chavez and Derek Jeter. The latter strikeout came on a particularly impressive changeup:
The Yankees, of course, can't be considered dead when they're down only four, no matter how little time is left, and they got on the board when Curtis Granderson took Benoit's third pitch of the eighth inning out to right-center. But no more damage was done, and the Tigers got the run back minutes later. Taking no chances, Jim Leyland handed a 5-1 lead to Jose Valverde for the bottom of the ninth.
Valverde...well, he wasn't great. He made things exciting, as he so often does, generating the following sequence of outcomes:
The triple, incidentally, was the first of Jorge Posada's playoff career. And that last walk, to Granderson, came only after Alex Avila slipped on a wet on-deck circle while going after a catchable foul pop-up. The walk brought the winning run to the plate in the potent person of Robinson Cano.
Valverde, though, won the battle, challenging Cano with four consecutive elevated fastballs, then getting him to roll over on a low-away splitter. Cano's ground out sealed the 5-3 Tigers win.
So it got hairy at the end, but the Tigers got what they wanted, and now they get to return home and hand the ball to Justin Verlander. The Yankees, in turn, get to hand the ball to CC Sabathia, who's no slouch himself, but suffice to say the Tigers are happy with where they are after two games and three days back east.