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Tigers earning their stripes

Go up 2-0 on Yankees in ALCS with ace in the hole at home

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NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The Detroit Tigers got a big boost from Anibal Sanchez's arm. They got a helping hand from an umpire, too.

The reward: A commanding 2-0 lead in the AL championship series, and a trip home with their ace ready to start.

Sanchez shut down a Yankees lineup minus injured Derek Jeter, Detroit scored twice after an admitted missed call by an ump and won without any extra-inning drama, beating New York 3-0 Sunday.

"He was terrific," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "This is a tough place to pitch with a tough lineup and a short porch. And a whole bunch of left-handed hitters, it is not easy. That was quite a feat."

New York starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched perfect ball into the sixth inning to keep pace with Sanchez. But Robinson Cano and the slumping Yankees hitters were no match for the 28-year-old right-hander a day after their captain broke his ankle in the 12th inning of a 6-4 loss.

"I try to think backwards," Sanchez said. "If the count calls for a fastball, I throw a different pitch. If the count calls for a different pitch, I throw a fastball. I try to mix my speeds."

To get out of a jam in the first inning, he thought backward, all right: try reaching around his back to snare a grounder for the final out.

Making his second post-season start, Sanchez threw three-hit ball deep into the game to make Leyland's job easier. Closer Jose Valverde gave up four runs in the ninth Saturday and, only hours later, Leyland said the righty wouldn't close Game 2.

Delmon Young gave Sanchez his first run of support in these playoffs with a fielder's choice in the seventh. The Tigers then scored twice in the eighth after second base umpire Jeff Nelson missed a call on a two-out tag at second base. Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued, and was ejected on his 48th birthday.

"The hand did not get in before the tag," Nelson said after seeing a replay. "The call was incorrect."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Detroit, with reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers against Phil Hughes. Verlander went 2-0 in the division series versus Oakland, including a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the decisive Game 5.

The Tigers led 1-0 in the eighth and had Omar Infante on first with two outs. Austin Jackson singled and when Infante took a wide turn at second, right fielder Nick Swisher threw behind him.

Cano made a swipe tag as Infante made a head-first dive back to second. Cano missed Infante's arm but brushed his body, replays clearly showed. But Nelson called Infante safe.

"I think the umpire got confused 'cause he saw my hand, something with my hand made him think I was safe," Infante said.

Was he out?

"Of course," Infante said.

Cano and Girardi pleaded the call to no avail. Boone Logan replaced Kuroda and gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Avisail Garcia to make it 2-0.

"It's frustrating. I don't have a problem with Jeff's effort, I don't, because he hustled to get to the play. But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it's got to change," Girardi said.

"These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it's hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake," he said.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2012 D1

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