NEW YORK - The Tigers came here with a simple plan -- get at least one game.
They did that in taking Game 1 on Saturday night. On Sunday, the Tigers did what most thought wasn't possible and won Game 2, a 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees before 47,082 at Yankee Stadium.
The Tigers now lead this best-of-seven American League Championship Series, 2-0, and are back home for the next three games, starting Tuesday night.
To say the Tigers are in the driver's seat is an understatement, especially with ace Justin Verlander set to start in Game 3 at Comerica Park.
The series is the Tigers to lose. It doesn't seem possible that the Yankees can come back. They'd have to win four of the final five games. And with the way they are swinging the bats right now, it seems impossible they can win a single game. The Yankees' captain Derek Jeter is also lost for the rest of the postseason with a broken ankle.
Plus, Detroit has history on its side. This is the third time in six ALCS appearances that the Tigers have taken a 2-games-0 lead. Each previous time (1984 against the Royals and 2006 vs. the A's), the Tigers advanced to the World Series and did not lose an ALCS game en route to the Fall Classic.
The position the Tigers find themselves in is pretty remarkable when you consider their big bats haven't exactly been booming and they had to take Jose Valverde out of his closer role after he imploded Saturday night, blowing a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning.
"We played good in a tough place to play against a great team," manager Jim Leyland said. "You have to be very happy about that."
The main reason the Tigers are just two victories away from their first trip to the World Series since 2006 is that the starting pitching has been outstanding.
Anibal Sanchez was tremendous, giving up just three hits in seven scoreless innings. He struck out seven and had three walks. He made it look easy in getting Yankees' second baseman Robinson Cano out. Cano couldn't get the ball out of the infield in his three at-bats against Sanchez.
"It is odd," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi about Cano, who is now hitless in 26 straight at-bats, the worst such streak in Yankees' postseason history. "You know this is a really, really good hitter that is struggling right now and he's not getting a lot of pitches to hit. So it's odd to me because this guy's really a good hitter."
The same could have been said about Miguel Cabrera, the AL Triple Crown winner. Cabrera had just one RBI in Oakland series and was being handled pretty easily by Yankees' pitching, but had two hits and an RBI. It plated the third run for the Tigers.
The Tigers were helped out big time in the eighth inning where they plated their final two runs and put the game away. The inning was extended when umpire Jeff Nelson blew a call at second base.
Clearly, Omar Infante was out a second base after taking too wide of a turn after a single to right field. The replay showed that Cano tagged Infante before his hand touched the base.
After seeing the replay, Nelson, speaking to a pool reporter, said, "The hand did not get in before the tag, the call was incorrect."
The Tigers gladly embraced the gaffe. They were also not crying about the Yankees' struggles at the plate. Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson are all having trouble making contact, let alone getting hits. The four were just 1-for-14 on Sunday. The lone hit coming from A-Rod in the ninth inning with two outs against Phil Coke, who picked up the save.
"I want to reiterate a little bit what I said this morning," Leyland said. "Jose Valverde will be an important part of this club in this playoff or we are going to have a real tough time."
It certainly didn't look like it as the Tigers took two in the Big Apple.
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