Tigers pounce on Yankees

The Detroit Tigers survived a tense trip back to Bronx, with Jose Valverde and the bullpen holding on time and time again to beat the New York Yankees 3-2 Thursday night to win the deciding Game 5 of their AL playoff series.

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez walks off after striking out to end the game as Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila celebrates the 3-2 win to take the ALDS Thursday in New York.

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez walks off after striking out to end the game as Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila celebrates the 3-2 win to take the ALDS Thursday in New York.

Tigers 3 Yankees 2

NEW YORK — The Detroit Tigers survived a tense trip back to Bronx, with Jose Valverde and the bullpen holding on time and time again to beat the New York Yankees 3-2 Thursday night to win the deciding Game 5 of their AL playoff series.

Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit consecutive home runs in the first inning, then Doug Fister and the Tigers spent the rest of a thrilling game trying to preserve their lead.

They did — barely — and advanced to the AL championship series against Texas.

“It was a gutsy win, especially with all the opportunities they had,” Kelly said.

Joaquin Benoit followed Max Scherzer in the seventh and walked Mark Teixeira with the bases loaded, pulling the Yankees within a run. Benoit struck out Nick Swisher with a 95 m.p.h. fastball to keep the lead.

Then in the eighth, Brett Gardner singled with two outs before Derek Jeter flied out to Kelly just in front of the right-field wall.

Valverde finished with the only 1-2-3 inning for Detroit after the first, getting his second save of the series and remaining perfect in 51 chances this year. After Valverde struck out Alex Rodriguez to end it, the Tigers’ closer crouched and pumped both arms as his teammates ran out to celebrate.

“The Yankees are so good that I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me a little extra satisfaction to be able to do it here in the fifth game,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “This will be a game I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

While the Yankees were eliminated in the post-season with a one-run loss at home for the first time since the 1926 World Series against St. Louis, Detroit won an all-or-nothing post-season game for the first time since beating the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.

With the Tigers vying for their first World Series title since 1984, ace Justin Verlander will start the ALCS opener at Texas on Saturday night against the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson. This will be Detroit’s first trip to the ALCS since 2006.

Before a new Yankee Stadium record crowd of 50,960, New York had its chances, but the Yankees went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and 0 for 4 with the bases loaded, and they stranded 10 runners.

While the Yankees led the AL with 97 wins during the regular season, the early exit in the first round and second straight season without a World Series title will set off a restless off-season search for more starting pitching and offence.

Rodriguez was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and hit .118 in the series (2 for 18) and Teixeira batted .167 (3 for 18). Robinson Cano, whose fifth-inning solo homer started the comeback attempt, was the Yankees’ primary offence with nine RBIs.

Kelly and Young homered on the sixth and seventh pitches from Ivan Nova, the Game 1 winner who led rookies with 16 wins during the regular season and hadn’t loss in the majors since June 3.

The homers were the first back-to-back post-season shots in Tigers’ history, and it was the third homer of the series for Young, who was acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 15. Kelly was a surprise starter at third to some.

“The crowd’s into it at the beginning and it was just good to get on the board,” Kelly said. “It’s big to get out in front early here.”

Young, the first Tigers player with three homers in a single post-season series, left in the seventh because of a mild left oblique strain and will be re-evaluated Friday.

“On the last swing I felt a little tweak,” Young said. “I went out there but wasn’t able to finish off my throws. So there’s no point playing superhero right now.”

After pitching scoreless ball into the ninth inning in winning the resumption of the opener, Nova (1-1) lasted just 31 pitches and six outs, with the Yankees saying he came out due to tightness in his right forearm.

“We didn’t like the way the ball was coming out of his hand. I think it was directly related to that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Some of his fastballs were cutting, and we never saw that. So I had to make a change.”

Phil Hughes started warming up after Nova’s sixth batter, Magglio Ordonez, doubled leading off the second. Ordonez advanced on Alex Avila’s groundout, but Nova worked out of trouble when Jhonny Peralta hit a one-hopper to third baseman Alex Rodriguez with the infield in and Ramon Santiago struck out.

When Hughes replaced Nova to start the third, Miguel Cabrera held up his hands, as if he were saying, “What’s this?”

It was just the start of the procession from the Yankees’ bullpen in right-centre to the mound.