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Tigers 5, Yankees 4

Yankees pushed to season’s edge

Young’s homer in 7th carries Tigers

Miguel Cabrera was pleased to see Delmon Young’s late home run, which gave Detroit a 5-4 lead. Miguel Cabrera was pleased to see Delmon Young’s late home run, which gave Detroit a 5-4 lead. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / October 4, 2011

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DETROIT - With all the talk of Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia and aces and duels, it was a pitch from Rafael Soriano to Delmon Young in the seventh inning of last night’s Game 3 that decided things.

It was a turnaround that would have been difficult to anticipate, the Yankees having just gained momentum, having just tied the game, having raised some hopes in a game they seemed to need more than the Tigers. And then, Soriano threw a pitch to Young to lead off the inning.

The ball landed in the right-field stands, the tie broken, the Tigers on top, where they would stay in a 5-4 win, taking a 2-1 lead in the American League Division Series.

“We did what we’ve done all year, which is either come from behind or have a big hit when we need it when we’re tied,’’ Verlander said. “It’s somebody different every night. That’s why this team is so dangerous, top to bottom anyone can hurt you.’’

Although Verlander was not quite as unhittable as he has been much of this season, the righthander showed more than enough grit in taking the victory. He got the Tigers through the eighth inning, throwing 120 pitches and striking out 11.

“He was terrific,’’ Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I don’t think people really realize how deep that lineup is.’’

Verlander got them to Jose Valverde, who got them closer to proving his prediction from Sunday night.

Detroit’s closer had said that he thought the series would not return to New York for Game 5. It was unclear whether it was a hope or a prediction. But with the Tigers going up, 2-1, in the series, and facing A.J. Burnett tonight in an elimination game for the Yankees, he might just be right.

“We’ve got two and they’ve got one,’’ Leyland said. “That’s all it means. Certainly that team is capable of rattling off a bunch in a row, obviously two or more, without question. It’s a great team. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position. That’s all we’ve done. This is a five-game series. I’ve said all along, the key number here is three.

“This is a long way from being over.’’

Valverde had a hand in this game, too, after finishing off Game 2 in a pouring rain. He made Game 3 interesting, walking Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner in the ninth, before finally getting Derek Jeter swinging to end the game.

It seemed that Verlander might have given the game away in the seventh. There were two outs, no one on base, with Posada down to his last strike. The ace had struck out seven of the last 10 Yankees batters, protecting a two-run lead, mixing in a combination of triple-digit heat and wicked curves.

Posada walked. Russell Martin was hit by a pitch. Gardner cleared them both off the bases with a double, tying the score at 4.

It was, of course, quickly untied.

The way it had gotten to that point, after Verlander had allowed two first-inning runs, was that Sabathia was not nearly the pitcher the Yankees needed.

“I actually thought he made a lot of good pitches tonight and I thought the [strike] zone was a small zone,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “No disrespect to anyone, but that’s what I thought. That’s what I saw.’’

Ultimately, though, the big lefthander didn’t give the Yankees what they wanted from him. He allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings, having given up seven hits and six walks, getting just three strikeouts.

He managed to keep the damage down with double plays in each of the first three innings. The Tigers scored two in the third, on a Ramon Santiago single and a bases-loaded double play by batting champion Miguel Cabrera. They scored another in the fifth and another in the sixth. One out later, Sabathia was done for the night.

And if Burnett can’t get the Yankees a win tonight, New York will be done for the season. Still, Girardi said, “I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us tomorrow.’’

“I look at it as a chance to get my team a win tomorrow, a very big one,’’ Burnett said before last night’s game. “I had good games, bad games during the season. I’m going to bring everything I’ve got, and just let A.J. loose out there.

“I can’t do anything to change the season. But I can help my team to win. I’m going to do that the best I can.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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