The Tigers blanked the Yankees 3-0 today to put themselves in the driver's seat in the American League Championship Series. Now up two games to zero in the series, they head back to Detroit where they went 50-31 in the regular season and 2-0 versus the Athletics in the first round. Not only that, but ace Justin Verlander and league strikeout rate leader Max Scherzer will be pitching the next two games.
Tonight's game did not have the drama of last night's crazy game, and I think most Tigers fans were quite fine with that. It was not without tension though as there was a classic pitcher's duel going for most of the game. Florida Marlins transplant Anibal Sanchez battled with Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda for six scoreless innings before the Tigers scored in the seventh. The Tigers first unlikely hitting hero today was speedy Quinton Berry who doubled to lead off the seventh and scored on a ground ball by Delmon Young. That turned out to be the winning run.
The Tigers added two more runs with the aid of an incorrect umpiring call in the eighth. If you want to hear details on the call (Omar Infante was called safe when he should have been out scrambling back to second on a throw from the outfield), just turn on TBS (or ESPN I imagine) and they'll tell you more about it than you need to hear. One of the surprise heroes in that inning was rookie outfielder Avisail Garcia, who singled in the Tigers second run.
The story of this game though, as it has been throughout the playoffs for the Tigers, was pitching. Sanchez limited the Yankees to four hits and three walks in seven shutout innings. That lowered the playoff ERA of Tigers starters to an amazing 0.94. In fact, they have not allowed an earned run in the last four games.
The only Tiger to allow any earned runs in the last four games has been closer Jose Valverde. With Valverde's closing days as a Tiger likely over, fans were curious to see who his replacement would be. It will probably be a committee, but today it was southpaw Phil Coke versus the heavily left-handed hitting Yankees with the Tigers up 3-0 in the eighth. Not only did Coke finish the game, but he pitched like an old-school fireman going not one but two scoreless innings. He allowed just one single to Alex Rodriguez and struck out three.
So, things are looking great for the Tigers and the best pitcher in baseball is pitching for them at home on Tuesday night.