- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

NEW YORK — Justin Verlander overpowered Alex Rodriguez with 100 mph heat. Joel Zumaya topped that, his fastball whizzing by at 102.

The New York Yankees never saw what was coming, and the Detroit Tigers headed home with a split.

Verlander and Detroit’s bullpen held down New York’s mighty offense, Curtis Granderson’s go-ahead triple off Mike Mussina capped a comeback, and Detroit beat the Yankees 4-3 yesterday to leave them tied at one game apiece in their best-of-five American League Division Series.

“There’s a lot of people doubting us,” Zumaya said. “A lot of people don’t expect the Tigers to come out and play as good as we did. We have to prove ourselves and, obviously, we proved it a little bit today.”

Verlander, like Zumaya one of Detroit’s rookie sensations, pitched in and out of trouble for 52/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four walks. He gave his only runs on Johnny Damon’s fourth-inning homer, which put New York ahead 3-1.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland then made the unusual move to pull him with a runner on, one out and a 1-1 count on Robinson Cano. Jamie Walker came in, threw two balls, and induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

It was that type of up-and-down day for the wild-card Tigers, who ended a six-game losing streak that cost them the AL Central title last weekend.

“I just didn’t like the fastball before that. It was 92,” Leyland said. “I just said, ‘This is it. I’m going to make my move now. I know there’s a count on the hitter, but I’m going to make it right now.’ Just all of a sudden, your instincts take over and say, ‘Look, this is just not right.’”

Those type of against-the-book moves helped Leyland turn around the Tigers in his first year as manager, stopping Detroit’s streak of losing seasons at 12.

“He’s a feel guy,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Walker, Zumaya and Todd Jones combined for one-hit relief, making New York’s modern-day Murderers’ Row resemble overmatched kids. Jones pitched the ninth for the save, giving up a leadoff single to Hideki Matsui. A soft tosser when compared to his hard-throwing ‘pen mates, Jones then struck out Jorge Posada, retired Cano on a soft fly and got Damon to fly out.

New York struck out nine times and went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position.

“There are no breaks,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Sheppard announced: ‘Now pinch hitting: Reggie Jackson.’ ”

Alex Rodriguez had another tough day, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including one that ended the first with the bases loaded. He’s 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in this series.

“I didn’t like him that well,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

Booed loudly after his final two at-bats, A-Rod hasn’t driven in a run in his last 10 postseason games and is 5-for-40 (.125) in his last 11.

“It’s not over. We’re just getting started,” Rodriguez said.

After the threat of rain caused a postponement Wednesday night, the skies were sunny for the rare postseason day game at Yankee Stadium. Leyland said the rainout helped rekindle his flame-throwers.

“To be honest with you, I think we caught a big break,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from our club but if you look, the shadows were pretty tough as it got late in the game. And you’ve got a guy throwing 98, 99, 100 miles an hour with shadows.”

Notes — Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3, the first postseason game in Detroit in 19 years.

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