Tigers blank Yankees to stretch series lead
NEW YORK - Venezuelan right-hander Anibal Sanchez hurled seven shutout innings and the Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 3-0 on Sunday to seize command of their Major League Baseball playoff series.
The Tigers lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series that shifts to Detroit for game three Tuesday. The Tigers-Yankees winner will face either San Francisco or reigning champion St. Louis in the World Series.
Sanchez surrendered only three hits while walking three and striking out seven to baffle a struggling Yankees lineup that was without captain Derek Jeter, the star shortstop who broke his left ankle in a game one loss Saturday.
"I took it inning by inning, hitter by hitter. I feel good," Sanchez said. "The team helped me. It was a good game for me and for the team. We need to keep winning. The Yankees are a good team. We can't give them anything."
The game turned on a botched pickoff call by second base umpire Jeff Nelson that allowed the Tigers to stretch a one-run lead to 3-0 in the eighth inning.
Omar Infante singled and took second on an Austin Jackson single, but only after overrunning the base and diving to get back.
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano tagged him before he reached the base but Nelson ruled Infante safe, denying the Yankees an inning-ending out.
Instead, Infante scored on a single by pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia and Miguel Cabrera singled to sent in Jackson, padding Detroit's advantage.
"A little thing in baseball is big right now," Cabrera said. "We have to take that."
Video replays showed Infante should have been called out and Nelson ejected Yankees manager Joe Girardi on the bench boss' 48th birthday for his vehement arguing of the errant decision.
Even the ejection could not light a fire in the Yankees' bats. Detroit reliever Phil Coke allowed only one New York hit over the final two innings.
The Tigers will start ace pitcher Jason Verlander on Tuesday. The 29-year-old US right-hander went 17-8 with a 2.64 earned-run average (ERA) and 239 strikeouts this season and in the playoffs is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA.
"Verlander is going to pitch well. Hopefully we can give a lot of support," Cabrera said. "We have to go out there and play hard."
Detroit's starting pitchers have not allowed an earned run in the past 29 2/3 innings, two outs shy of matching a major league playoff record.
New York starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda of Japan hurled five perfect innings before Jhonny Peralta singled to centerfield in the sixth and Detroit began the scoring in the seventh on a blunder by Cano.
Quintin Berry led off for the Tigers by bouncing a ball over the centerfield wall for a ground-rule double, then took third base on a Cabrera single.
Prince Fielder struck out but Delmon Young followed with a ground ball to Yankee shortstop Jayson Nix, who flipped the ball to Cano at second base in hopes of turning a double play to end the inning and the threat.
Cano grabbed the ball for the force out but dropped it as he tried to throw to first base to retire Young, allowing the batter to reach first base safely and Berry to cross homeplate to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Adding to Cano's woes is his 0-for-26 playoff hit drought, which has now become the longest playoff batting drought in major league history.
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