The Detroit Tigers are only one win away from eliminating the New York Yankees and advancing to the ALCS. Just like in 2006, the Tigers lost Game 1 on the road before bouncing back with a win in Game 2. Also just like 2006, the Tigers won Game 3 at home and now can clinch a trip to the ALCS with a win at Comerica Park in Game 4.
Similar to Sunday's game, things got a little too interesting at the end of Monday night's Game 3 showdown. Jose Valverde allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to reach base, and all it would have likely taken was a single for the Yankees to give him his first blown save of the year. He wasn't about to let that happen, though. Just like he has done so many other times this season, Valverde stepped it up when the Tigers needed him most. In Game 3, that meant striking out Derek Jeter to preserve Detroit's 5-4 victory, and that's exactly what Valverde did.
The ninth inning pretty much summed up how all of Game 3 went for the Tigers. It was a roller coaster ride from the beginning, as Justin Verlander allowed two runs in the first inning. He got off to a shaky start, but luckily he settled down and cruised for the next five innings.
CC Sabathia didn't allow any runs in the first two innings, but he was having control issues. He was walking batters left and right, and although the Tigers couldn't capitalize on them, they were at least driving up his pitch count. By the third inning, Sabathia appeared to be laboring out there, and the Tigers pounced on him. Ramon Santiago drove in Brandon Inge, who surprisingly got the rally started, and the Tigers tied things up when a run scored on a Miguel Cabrera double play.
Santiago came up big for the Tigers again in the fifth inning. Once again, Inge was able to get on base, and this time he scored on a double to left field by Santiago. The Tigers added another run in the sixth inning on a Jhonny Peralta double that put them ahead by a score of 4-2.
Verlander went into the seventh inning on a roll and quickly struck out Mark Teixeira and got Nick Swisher to pop out in foul territory. He had retired 10 of the last 11 batters and had Jorge Posada in a 0-2 count. It looked like the Tigers were going to cruise into the bottom of the seventh with their two-run lead, but Posada battled back and drew a walk. Verlander lost his rhythm and proceeded to hit Russell Martin and allow Brett Gardner to double with two strikes. Both Posada and Martin scored to tie the game. Verlander got out of the inning by striking out Jeter in the next at-bat, but Comerica Park was stunned.
The offense needed to pick Verlander up in the bottom of the seventh, and Delmon Young took care of the job. With one out, Young took Rafael Soriano deep to right field on the first pitch of his at-bat. The ball didn't go very far, but it went far enough and landed in row one of the right field seats. Suddenly the Tigers were back on top, and Verlander cruised through the top of the eighth by only allowing Alex Rodriguez to reach base (on a walk).
Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth and the Tigers still led 5-4. It was Valverde time, and things got off to a good start with Swisher fouling out to Inge. Then Valverde lost control and walked Jorge Posada. Martin flied out to right, but Eduardo Nunez, who came in as a pinch runner for Posada, stole second and Valverde walked Gardner. The game-tying run was in scoring position, and Gardner represented the go-ahead run on first. Jeter came up to bat, and facing a 2-2 count after almost being drilled in the face, he struck out swinging. Valverde celebrated -- surprisingly not as wildly as usual -- and the Tigers poured out of the dugout to take in the 5-4 victory.
The Tigers and Yankees will return to Comerica Park on Tuesday night for Game 4 of this series. Rick Porcello will get the start for the Tigers as they look to clinch a trip to the ALCS. The Yankees will send out A.J. Burnett, who wasn't even originally scheduled to be a part of the rotation in this series, out for the start.
The first pitch is set for 8:37 p.m.