Tigers, Rangers take 2-1 leads with tight wins

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws during the first inning of Game 3 of baseball's American League division series against the New York Yankees on, Oct. 3, 2011, in Detroit.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

DETROIT - Detroit's ace pitcher Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters over eight gritty innings to guide the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Monday, giving them a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five American League Division Series.

Detroit closer Jose Valverde closed it out, striking out Derek Jeter with two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Delmon Young hit the tiebreaking homer for the Tigers, pushing New York to the brink of postseason elimination. The Yankees must win Game 4 in Detroit on Tuesday, when pitcher A.J. Burnett's shaky season will encounter its greatest test, against Detroit's Rick Porcello.

Verlander and New York ace C.C. Sabathia were back on the mound Monday after their series-opening matchup at Yankee Stadium was halted by rain after only 1½ innings.

Verlander, who led the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, had a shaky start. Jeter hit Verlander's first pitch right back up the middle for a single, then Curtis Granderson's drive sailed over the head of Austin Jackson in left-center for an RBI triple. Alex Rodriguez made it 2-0 to the Yankees with an RBI groundout.

However Sabathia had even more problems, walking four of the first six hitters he faced, but Detroit grounded into double plays in each of the first two innings and didn't score.

Brandon Inge doubled in the third for Detroit's first hit, then Jackson walked. Ramon Santiago failed to get a bunt down but made up for it by lining an RBI single to left.

Delmon Young then hit a single, and Miguel Cabrera — who homered and drove in three runs in Game 2 — came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. He grounded into Detroit's third double play in three innings — but at least one run scored to tie the game 2-2.

Verlander found his groove during the middle innings. After a strike out to end the fourth, he struck out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth, leaving the New York hitters looking helpless as his sweeping breaking ball dropped over the plate.

The Tigers went ahead for the first time in the bottom of the fifth when Santiago — who was brought in to replace Ryan Rayburn as second baseman due to his strong record against Sabathia — hit a double to make it 3-2.

Detroit added another run off Sabathia in the sixth. Jhonny Peralta followed Don Kelly's bunt single with a double to left that appeared to bounce off a pole in the fence, rebounding strangely to the left while the runner came around to score.

Verlander struck trouble in the seventh, walking Jorge Posada with two outs, then hitting Russell Martin in the ribs with a fastball, putting runners on first and second.

Brett Gardner then lined a double to left-centerfield. By the time Jackson raced over to retrieve the ball and unleashed a mediocre throw back to the infield, both runners were on their way home and the game was tied 4-4.

In the bottom of the inning, Young responded with a homer that barely cleared the wall in right field and that stood as the winner as Valverde held on despite a less-than-convincing ninth inning. Rangers 4, Rays 3

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Texas survived a shaky performance from the bullpen and beat Tampa Bay and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five AL Division Series.

Colby Lewis outpitched All-Star David Price and Mike Napoli hit a go-ahead two-run homer for Texas, which has won four straight division series road games.

Rookie Desmond Jennings hit a pair of solo homers for the Rays, who kept it interesting by scoring twice off Rangers relievers before Texas closer Neftali Feliz got four outs to end it and set up a big Game 4 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.

The contest finished when Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, playing deep and guarding the line to prevent a double, started a double play on Kelly Shoppach's grounder.

Price, who was the losing pitcher in two of Tampa Bay's playoff losses in 2010, is still yet to win a game against the Rangers in his career despite taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh, thanks to Jennings' fourth-inning homer.

Beltre singled leading off the seventh against Price and took second a wild pitch. A crowd of 32,828 — the first sellout at Tropicana Field since opening day — fell silent when Napoli lifted a pitch into the seats beyond left-center field for a 2-1 advantage. Josh Hamilton extended the lead with a two-run single.

As good as Price was early, Lewis was better in limiting the Rays to one hit over six innings. Jennings' first homer was the only hit off the Rangers pitcher, who had worked 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays up to that point.

But the Rangers bullpen nearly let a three-run lead slip away.

Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman singled to load the bases against reliever Darren Oliver in the seventh. Damon scored when Sean Rodriguez grounded out, but the Rangers escaped further damage when the second pitcher of the inning, Alexi Ogando, induced Sam Fuld to hit a roller to second base.

The Rays weren't finished. Jennings led off the eighth with his second homer, trimming Texas' lead to 4-3. Mike Adams walked B.J. Upton but he was then caught stealing. Adams then walked Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce to get himself into trouble again.

The Rangers wiggled off the hook when reliever Michael Gonzales struck out Damon. Feliz came on to fan Zobrist with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.