- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2011

NEW YORK — Detroit closer Jose Valverde held off a furious New York ninth-inning rally and the Tigers avoided a major slip-up, beating the Yankees 5-3 on a rainy Sunday and evening their best-of-five AL playoff series at one game apiece.

Down 5-1, the Yankees scored twice in the ninth. Helped when Detroit catcher Alex Avila lost his footing on the slick on-deck circle while chasing a foul pop that would’ve been the final out, New York got a chance to win it.

Robinson Cano, who hit a grand slam and had six RBIs as the Yankees won the opener, came up with two outs and runners on first and second. After wiping away raindrops from his helmet, Cano hit a routine groundball to end it.

Tigers starter Max Scherzer pitched no-hit ball into the sixth before Cano blooped an opposite-field single to left.

Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer in the first off Freddy Garcia gave Scherzer an early edge, and the Tigers took a 4-0 lead into the eighth.

Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer off Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit in the eighth. Pretty soon, the rain — and all the drama — filled Yankee Stadium.

Game 3 is Monday at Detroit. In an ace rematch, of sorts, CC Sabathia is scheduled to start for the Yankees against Justin Verlander. The two All-Stars faced each other in the series opener Friday night, but the game was suspended after only 1½ innings because of rain.

Valverde entered in the ninth with a four-run lead. He led the majors in going 49 of 49 in save chances this year, and the Tigers were a perfect 83-0 this season when taking an edge into the ninth.

But this was not a save situation for Valverde, and he was far from perfect.

Nick Swisher sent Valverde’s first pitch over the right-field wall for a home run. Jorge Posada followed with his first triple of the year and Russell Martin walked. With crowd rooting for a rally, Andruw Jones hit a sacrifice fly that made it 5-2.

Derek Jeter struck out, and the rain that has hounded this playoff series from the start returned in buckets. Granderson then lifted his foul pop near the Detroit dugout and Avila tracked it.

But the All-Star catcher slipped on the mat in the on-deck circle, lost his balance and had no play. Given another chance, Granderson drew a walk that sent him to first base as the tying run.

Cano and Valverde both did their best to stay dry — the Yankees’ star asked for a towel to wipe off his helmet, the Tigers’ excitable reliever tried to tuck away the ball in his glove to keep his grip.

With the crowd roaring, the game ended with a simple grounder to second base.

Playing on the scheduled travel day, the Tigers now fly home with a chance to take command of the series, just as they did in 2006, when they lost the opener in New York before sweeping three straight.



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