10/05/06 5:30 PM ET
Chess match: Tigers claw way to win
Yanks miss on early opportunities; Detroit holds on in Game 2
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Making life easier
The situation: Justin Verlander, the prized rookie, had to have nerves early in the game. Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the first with a single, bringing red-hot Derek Jeter to the plate.
The decision: Despite having hits in his last seven postseason at-bats, one shy of a record, Jeter decided to bunt.
The outcome: He popped up to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, something that became more glaring when Verlander labored through the rest of the inning. Verlander wound up striking out Alex Rodriguez with two outs and the bases loaded to emerge unscathed. One will never know how the course of the day might have changed if Jeter had swung away.
To bunt or not to bunt?
The situation: That was the question Yankees manager Joe Torre had to answer in the bottom of the second when his team once again pestered Verlander, putting runners on first and second and nobody out for No. 9 hitter Robinson Cano.
The decision: Torre opted not to bunt, despite the fact his dangerous top of the order was looming.
The outcome: Cano started a string of three consecutive Yankees outs, and once again, Verlander was an escape artist. The only three runs the Yankees scored all day came on one swing from Johnny Damon.
More discipline needed
The situation: The Tigers rallied back from a 3-1 deficit and finally took a 4-3 lead on Curtis Granderson's triple off a tiring Mike Mussina in the seventh. Not only that, but the Tigers had Granderson at third and just one out.
The decision: In a situation that begged for a grounder to the right side, right-handed hitting Placido Polanco pulled the ball. Up next came Sean Casey, and he swung at the first pitch.
The outcome: Polanco lined out to third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Casey flew out to center. End of threat. The Tigers' bullpen hung on for the win, but manager Jim Leyland probably could have popped a few less antacid tablets in the late innings if his team could have pushed across some insurance runs. If the Tigers are going to beat the Yankees in this series, they must execute.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.