The long awaited Justin Verlander/ CC Sabathia finally took place tonight in game three of the first round of the playoffs (I hate calling it the ALDS). While it wasn't quite the pitching duel some may have expected, it was an entertaining and tension-filled game from start to finish.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander allowed a lead off single to Derek Jeter and a triple to Curtis Granderson to start the game and the Yankees took a quick 2-0 lead in the first. Verlander quickly settled down or more accurately got amped up showing off some his most dominant stuff of the year after Granderson's triple. JV usually holds back his hardest fastballs for the late innings, but tonight he was throwing 98-101 MPH fastballs all night long. He struck out every Yankees starter at least once and had 11 for the night.
The Tigers fans could sense that Verlander was doing something special and roared on every two strike count. The crowd noise sounded like what you hear in the background of one of those old World Series films. For a while, it looked like the powerful right hander would cruise to a complete game victory, but he ran into some trouble in the seventh.
With two outs and two strikes on designated hitter Jorge Posada, Verlander tried to put the Yankee veteran away with curveballs and ended up walking him. He then hit catcher Russell Martin with a pitch and allowed a game tying two-run double to speedy Brett Gardner. It looked like Justin got a little to pumped in that inning, but then settled down and got through eight innings allowing four runs.
On the other side, Sabathia did not have good command tonight walking six batters in 5 1/3 innings. He survived the early innings reasonably well thanks to three double plays. However, the Tigers chipped away getting some offense from unlikely sources. Brandon Inge had a double and a single and scored two runs. Ramon Santiago also had a double and a single and knocked in two runs. Jim Leyland's favorite utility man, Don Kelly, later singled and scored.
Finally, the big blow came in the bottom of the seventh. With the score tied at four, Delmon Young crushed a homer to right field to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead they would not lose. I think the controversial Mr. Young (Some internet Tigers fans love him while others hate him) added a few new fans tonight.
Closer Jose Valverde, who made us nervous in a non-save situation yesterday did the same in a save situation tonight. He put two Yankees on base via bases on balls in the ninth, but then danced after striking out Derek Jeter to end the game.
After yesterday's game, Papa Grande joked that the series is over and that the Tigers will not go back to Yankee Stadium. He has a chance to be proven right tomorrow when the Tigers try to win the series with Rick Porcello facing AJ Burnett.