The Detroit Tigers are headed to the ALCS after downing the New York Yankees on Thursday night by a score of 3-2. Game 5 of the series probably took a few years off the lives of Tigers fans, but it was worth it to see Jose Valverde celebrate after completing a three-out save to seal Detroit's 3-2 victory.
Perhaps as surprising as a relatively stress-free inning with Valverde on the mound was how this game started. Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to put Detroit on top 2-0 early, and it turned out that the first inning accounted for half of starter Ivan Nova's appearance in Game 5. He was pulled after the second inning by Joe Girardi because of forearm tightness in what was the first of many pitching changes made by the Yankees during this game.
The Tigers didn't make their first pitching change until the sixth inning, when Max Scherzer took over for Doug Fister. Fister pitched very well for the Tigers, going five innings and allowing only one run and five hits. The one run came on a solo home run by Robinson Cano in the fifth inning. An inning earlier, the Yankees had the bases loaded, but Fister worked out of the jam with no runs allowed.
Before Cano's home run in the bottom of the fifth, Victor Martinez provided some insurance for the Tigers in the top of the fifth. CC Sabathia entered the game to take over for Boone Logan, who earlier replaced Phil Hughes. Sabathia gave up a lead-off double to Austin Jackson, and later in the inning with two outs, Martinez singled to score him. The Yankees intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera, and Martinez made them pay.
Scherzer cruised through the sixth inning for the Tigers, but after allowing an infield single to Derek Jeter in the seventh, things got extremely sketchy. Joaquin Benoit came into the game and allowed back-to-back singles to Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. Cano reached on an infield single, and he loaded the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who struck out. Mark Teixeira drew a walk to score a run, but Benoit kept the lead intact by striking out Nick Swisher.
Benoit stayed out for the eighth inning and retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a Brett Gardner single. Jeter came up to bat and hit a long fly ball to right field, but it fell short of the wall by a few feet and Kelly was there to make the catch.
In the ninth inning, it was Papa Grande time. Jose Valverde came into the game and retired the Yankees in order. Granderson flew out to Ryan Raburn in left field, and Cano lined out to center. The Yankees' last hope was Rodriguez, and he was once again struck out, giving the Tigers the final out they needed to preserve a 3-2 victory.
The Tigers are now off to Texas to take on the Rangers in the ALCS. Just like in 2006, an AL West team awaits the Tigers after they defeated the Yankees in the ALDS. Hopefully history will once again repeat itself as the Tigers look to return to the World Series.