Scherzer, Raburn burn Yankees
Two-run homer more than enough offense for right-hander
NEW YORK -- Maybe this Tigers winning streak has some legs. It certainly has shown some arms.
It might include a gimpy leg, depending on how Carlos Guillen feels after taking a Brent Gardner slide around his left knee. It might also have a shaky arm, if Jose Valverde can't regain command of his splitter.
But through all the drama, including a nail-biter of a save from Valverde to finish off Monday's 3-1 win over the Yankees, the Tigers have won three straight on the road for the first time all season, and three straight anywhere for the first time since the All-Star break.
They also made up a half-game on the idle Twins in the American League Central. It isn't much, but it's progress.
"You just know crazier things have happened. It's baseball," said starter Max Scherzer, whose six scoreless innings earned him his first road win since mid-April. "I think we're playing with the attitude we have nothing to lose."
Crazy things happened Monday. The Tigers overcame them.
None of these last three Tigers wins have been easy. After back-to-back comeback wins in Chicago over the weekend, the Tigers never fell behind Monday at Yankee Stadium. But it sure felt close, enough so that a low-scoring duel at Yankee Stadium lasted longer than the 13-8 slugfest they won over the White Sox on Sunday.
"I think we've learned a lot about ourselves, especially with the young team that we have," said Johnny Damon, whose first game back in the Bronx since he and the Yankees parted ways ended up being overshadowed. "Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to get these big victories. As a young team, you're going to have to learn how to do that. And we've learned how to do it, especially the last couple days."
Scherzer (8-9) certainly could appreciate the challenge. His road woes have recently included a no-hit bid broken up by a sixth-inning grand slam, and a 5-1 lead blown in Boston. His overall four-game winless streak included seven innings with one earned run allowed last week against the Rays at Comerica Park, only to fall in a shutout.
He had to rear back for 115 pitches over six innings, with some of the best movement seen on his fastball all season. He kept coming back to his power pitch and kept Yankees hitters struggling to gauge it.
"I was pitching behind in the count a lot tonight -- 2-0, 1-0, 3-1," Scherzer said. "I was still able to execute pitches in those situations and not walk them. ... It just shows you how much execution comes into play."
Scherzer started off his outing with called third strikes on Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher, then sent down Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada swinging in the second inning. He later recovered from an infield mixup and dropped popup by Jhonny Peralta and Guillen to retire Rodriguez and Robinson Cano again in fourth.
Scherzer should have had a bigger lead to protect by then after the rough second inning the Tigers gave Yankees starter Javier Vazquez, but Detroit settled for a two-run homer from Ryan Raburn -- his fourth home run in Detroit's last five games -- before leaving the bases loaded in the same inning.
The Tigers drew 106 pitches from Vazquez (9-9) over four innings that included five hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Though Scherzer added just two strikeouts after his early outburst to finish with six, he allowed just two hits.
"I thought he was tremendous," manager Jim Leyland said, "but we needed one more inning of him. With him and [Justin] Verlander, we just need one more inning out of them with that same pitch count. It just changes everything and how you are able to deal with the bullpen."
The Tigers had Valverde back in the closer's role after he missed the weekend series with an abdominal strain, a return that became clear once Phil Coke replaced Scherzer to begin the seventh. An ill-advised attempt by Coke to barehand a ball led to a Posada infield single before Curtis Granderson's double brought in Ryan Perry to retire Francisco Cervelli and strand the tying run on second.
Once Perry gave up a two-out single in the eighth to bring up Mark Teixeira, in came Valverde for a four-out save. He walked Teixeira before retiring pinch-hitter Marcus Thames, then sat while Miguel Cabrera added an insurance run in the ninth with his second opposite-field homer in as many days.
Once Valverde came back, he might have been healthy, but he wasn't in control. Three walks and a Granderson single in a five-hitter span turned what should have been a comfortable save situation into mayhem, and eventually brought Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand to the mound to check on him.
"He said he was OK," Leyland said. "If they say they can pitch, I'm going to pitch them."
Valverde pitched to the brink, walking in the first run and putting the potential tying run on second as the lineup came back around to Jeter. Again, Valverde fell behind before he scrapped the slider in favor of the fastball.
On a full count, he got Jeter to ground to short. Guillen took Peralta's feed knowing Gardner was charging in on him, but stood in and released his throw to first just as Gardner's impact hit his knee.
Guillen limped back to the dugout afterwards, and he wasn't sure how it would feel Tuesday, but he was celebrating a win.
"I have to make that play," Guillen said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.