In the end, it was pitching.
The Tigers pitched better in the biggest moments of the fifth and deciding game in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night.
We know, we know. The New York Yankees actually outscored the Detroit Tigers, 28-17, in this best-of-five, American League Division Series.
Despite being outscored 28-17 in the best-of-five series, the Tigers, not the Yankees are advancing to the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers. Game 1 is Saturday night in Texas.
Starter and winner Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde combined to scattered 10 hits in the Tigers? 3-2 victory before a stunned, sellout crowd in Da Bronx.
In the series, Tigers? starters were 3-1 with a 3.46 ERA over the series. Valverde had two saves, including a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the clincher.
"The Yankees are so good that I would be lying if I said it didn?t give me a little extra satisfaction to be able to do it here in the fifth game,?? said manager Jim Leyland, whose team jumped out two a 2-0 lead with back-to-back solo homers in the first inning, "I don?t mean that disrespectfully, I mean it respectfully."
"It gave me a great thrill to be able to do it here in Yankee Stadium in Game 5. Unbelievable."
The same could be said about Delmon Young, who was 2-for-4 with a solo homer in Game 5. For the series, Young had three homers in the ALDS, setting a franchise record for the most home runs by a Tiger in any single postseason series.
Still, this happy ending had to do more with pitching than hitting. The Tigers stopped the middle of the Yankee lineup of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher. The stellar mound work ultimately cost the Yankees a third straight trip to the ALCS.
In the series, A-Rod batted .111 (2-for-18) with three RBI, Teixeira batted .167 (3-for-18) with one RBI and Swisher batted .211 (4-for-19) with one homer and one RBI.
"The one thing that I know is I know their heart and their effort,?? manager Joe Girardi said. "I?m not disappointed in any one of our guys. Not one of them. I?m proud of everyone of those guys and what they bring to the table every day. Some days, you just get beat."
With the bases loaded and one out and the Tigers leading 3-1 in the seventh inning, Benoit came up big. He fanned A-Rod for the second out. Teixeira walked to force in the Yankees? second run. Then he Swisher struck out swinging to end the threat. ``What a tremendous gutty performance,?? Leyland said. ``He?s been like that all year. Very fortunate to have him.??
The same can be said about Don Kelly, who started at third base and hit a solo homer in the first. In the series, Kelly hit safely in all four of his games he played in, batting .364 (4-for-11) with three runs scored and two RBI.
"I?m real proud of him,?? Leyland said of Kelly. ``It couldn?t happen to a better kid.?"
Although the Yankees scored a lot of runs, they just didn?t do it at clutch times. The 28 runs in the ALDS vs. Detroit is the second-most runs in franchise history in a single Division Series, trailing only the 33 runs they scored against Seattle in 1995. They also lost that series, 3-2.
This one, though, has to hurt New York even more because it wasn?t like the Yankees needed some dramatic home run or eight-run rally to win. They just need a single or sacrifice fly in a key moment and couldn?t get it against Tigers? pitching.
"Players aren?t going to make excuses, neither am I,?? Girardi said. "The bottom line is we lost some really close games to them. We lost two one-run games and a two-run game. And as I said, a hit here and a hit there and it?s the difference in the series.??
It was only fitting that the Yankees would go down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning against Valverde. Rodriguez struck out for the final out of the game.
"The irony is that I was waiting for that at-bat all series,?? A-Rod said. ``I felt like I never really had a situation to make a really big difference.??
The Tigers? pitching saw to that.