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2006 American League Division Series 1
From BR Bullpen
|2006 MLB Postseason|
|AL||NYY - DET||OAK - DET||STL - DET|
|MIN - OAK|
|NL||NYM - LAD||NYM - STL|
|STL - SD|
|<< 2005||2007 >>|
The Detroit Tigers crashed in the final weekend of the regular season, getting swept by the Kansas City Royals and losing the division title to the Minnesota Twins. At the time, it looked like an unfortunate break for Jim Leyland's Tiger squad. Rather than go up against the Oakland A's, Detroit had to accept its role as a wild card team and face the New York Yankees. It seemed like a classic baseball version of David against Goliath. The downtrodden Tigers, slumping into the postseason, against baseball's "Evil Empire".
The series started off as expected. The Yankees clubbed Detroit into submission. But a fall of rain and a fired up veteran pitcher changed the Tigers' fortunes. Before baseball fans could blink, Detroit flipped the tables on New York and stole the series. The loss rocked the Yankees' clubhouse and set off a talk radio fury in the Big Apple. For Detroit, winning rekindled the old flame that looked burnt out just a week before.
 The Teams
 The Detroit Tigers
Detroit's lineup did not have the same star power as New York's. Rookie Curtis Granderson set the table at the top of the order, while Magglio Ordonez, Sean Casey, Carlos Guillen, and Ivan Rodriguez provided sound veteran leadership and production in the middle of the lineup. Craig Monroe, Marcus Thames, and Brandon Inge were all capable power hitters, while Placido Polanco was the team's best contact hitter.
The rotation had the league's Rookie of the Year, Justin Verlander, and one of the league's most battle-hardened southpaws, Kenny Rogers. Left-hander Nate Robertson and right-hander Jeremy Bonderman were both talented starters in the Tigers' rotation. Jamie Walker, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones made up the bullpen.
 The New York Yankees
The "Bronx Bombers" got their nickname for a reason: the franchise can slug the ball. The 2006 Yankees featured Johnny Damon at the top of the order, Derek Jeter in the two hole, and a combination of Bobby Abreu, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, and Jorge Posada in the middle. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano were the only young guys in the lineup. Both performed well in the regular season.
The team's rotation was fronted by hard-throwing sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang. He was followed by veteran Mike Mussina, probable future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and finally an embattled Jaret Wright. The bullpen was the club's strength and weakness. They had the best postseason closer ever in Mariano Rivera, but the middle relief was often inconsistent.
 Series results
|1||New York Yankees 8, Detroit Tigers 4||October 3||Nate Robertson (0-1) vs. Chien-Ming Wang (1-0)|
|2||Detroit Tigers 4, New York Yankees 3||October 5||Justin Verlander (ND) vs. Mike Mussina (0-1)|
|3||Detroit Tigers 6, New York Yankees 0||October 6||Randy Johnson (0-1) vs. Kenny Rogers (1-0|
|4||Detroit Tigers 8, New York Yankees 3||October 7||Jaret Wright (0-1) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (1-0)|
 Game 1 @ Yankee Stadium
Yankees: 8, Tigers: 4
|WP: Chien-Ming Wang (1-0), LP: Nate Robertson (0-1)|
- Attendance: 56,291
The Yankees opened the playoffs with a vengeance, scoring five runs in the 3rd inning. Johnny Damon led off the inning with a single. Derek Jeter doubled to give the Yankees runners on second and third for Bobby Abreu. Abreu doubled to score Jeter and Damon. Gary Sheffield singled to score Abreu, and Jason Giambi hit a two-run blast. Just like that, five hits gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
Chien-Ming Wang gave the Yankees a strong outing, but the Tigers were able to creep back into the game. Craig Monroe belted a home run to start off the top of the 5th inning. Brandon Inge notched a one-out single and consecutive two-out doubles from Placido Polanco and Sean Casey made the score 5-3. It appeared that Nate Robertson had settled down for the Tigers, but the Yankees chased him from the game in the 6th inning. Three consecutive two-out hits by Damon, Jeter, and Abreu gave the Yankees two more insurance runs. Through six, the Yanks were up, 7-3.
Curtis Granderson provided the last Tigers' run of the night, hitting a home run in the 7th inning to make the game 7-4. Jeter struck back with a blast of his own in the 8th. Mariano Rivera faced the minimum three batters in the 9th inning. The Yankees won game one by a score of 8-4. It looked like New York was well on their way to winning the series. They had a mighty offense and all the momentum.
 Game 2 @ Yankee Stadium
Tigers: 4, Yankees: 3
|WP: Jamie Walker (1-0), LP: Mike Mussina (0-1), SV: Todd Jones (1)|
- Attendance: 56,252
Game 2 was originally to be played Wednesday night, instead rain forced it back to Thursday afternoon. The rain worked heavily in the Tigers' favor. It gave the club an extra day to regroup after Tuesday's pounding, it prevented the Yankees from building on the momentum of the night before, and the more rowdy night game atmosphere was replaced by a subdued afternoon environment.
The Yankees looked poised to score in the bottom of the 1st. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate. 2006 was one of A-Rod's worst seasons, fans often complained that he disappeared in the clutch. With a chance to prove them wrong, Rodriguez went down on strikes against Justin Verlander. The Tigers came up with the game's first run in the top of the 2nd, scoring on a two-out RBI single from Marcus Thames. The Yankees got to Verlander in the 4th. Hideki Matsui hit a one-out single and Jorge Posada walked. The Rookie of the Year recipient got Robinson Cano to fly out, but then gave up a three-run home run to Johnny Damon. After four innings, the Yankees had a 3-1 lead.
The Tigers began to chip away in the top of the 5th. Thames led off the inning with a double. Mike Mussina threw a wild pitch, allowing Thames to take third base. Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-2. Carlos Guillen tied the game with a dinger in the 6th. It was Granderson coming through again in the 7th. Thames started off with a single. Posada surrendered a passed ball, Thames took second. Brandon Inge bunted Thames over to third, and Granderson drove him home with a triple. The Tigers had a 4-3 lead in the 7th inning.
Jim Leyland turned to Joel Zumaya in the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander retired all five Yankee batters he faced. Todd Jones gave up a lead-off single in the 9th, but retired the next three batters in a row. Detroit evened the series at 1-1 heading back to Comerica Park
 Game 3 @ Comerica Park
Tigers: 6, Yankees: 0
|WP: Kenny Rogers (1-0), LP: Randy Johnson (0-1)|
- Attendance: 43,440
The Tigers signed Kenny Rogers before the 2006 season believing that the team needed the presence of a veteran hurler. He was average in the spring and early summer, but caught fire in August and September. It was only fitting that Rogers, a former Yankee, should pitch in the make-or-break third game. The winner would be a win away from the ALCS, the loser would be on the brink of elimination. "The Gambler" would have to face Randy Johnson. Johnson was brought to New York so he could dominate the postseason as he had done in 2001. It was the best match-up the series could offer, two aged lefties dueling to give their teams an edge in the best-of-five series.
Rogers showed his intent to battle as early as the 1st inning. Derek Jeter hit a one-out double, giving the Yankees a runner on second with the big bats due up. Rogers fought his way through trouble and got out of the inning unscathed. The Tigers put up a three-spot in the bottom of the 2nd, thanks to four singles. The rally fired up the fans at Comerica Park and the Tigers never looked back.
Rogers showed raw emotion all night long. Fist pumps and shouting accompanied his walks from the mound to the dugout. He threw the best game of the series on adrenaline and savvy. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, gave up five hits, two walks, no runs and struck out eight.
The Tigers' offense provided plenty of run support. A single by Carlos Guillen and back-to-back doubles from Ivan Rodriguez and Sean Casey plated two more runs for Detroit in the 6th inning. Curtis Granderson hit his second home run of the series in the 7th inning. Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones put the finishing touches on a 6-0 Tiger victory.
 Game 4 @ Comerica Park
Tigers: 8, Yankees: 3
|WP: Jeremy Bonderman (1-0), LP: Jaret Wright (0-1)|
- Attendance: 43,126
The emotion of the Tigers and their fans stole the energy from the Yankees. New York came out for Game 4 looking like a broken team. Alex Rodriguez had just one hit in the first three games of the series. He came to the park and discovered that he would bat eighth in Game 4. Joe Torre tried to shuffle the pieces to inspire his club, but he could not hide the lack of depth in the rotation. He described Jaret Wright as having "the heart of a lion" and he went with the big right-hander in Game 4. Wright had had a tough regular season, but had the benefit of postseason experience and showed a desire to compete. The Tigers turned to Jeremy Bonderman, their young strikeout pitcher who once shouldered 19 losses for an abysmal Tigers team in 2003.
Wright ran into trouble in the bottom of the 2nd inning. He gave up home runs to Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe, allowing the Tigers to grab an early 3-0 lead. Alex Rodriguez committed an error with two outs in the 3rd inning. Detroit capitalized and scored a run with a pair of singles. Torre removed Wright from the game and handed the ball to Cory Lidle. The Tigers pieced together four hits off Lidle in the 5th, making their lead 7-0. Torre was forced to bring in Brian Bruney and then Scott Proctor before the inning finally came to an end. Sean Casey hit an RBI double in the 6th to give the Tigers an eight-run lead.
Bonderman's performance was silky smooth. He gave up a run in the 7th and another in the 9th, but was mostly brilliant. Bonderman was working on a perfect game through five innings. In total, he gave up five hits and a walk in 8 1/3 innings. It was a far cry from his turbulent rookie season in 2003. Jamie Walker recorded the final two outs. The Tigers won their first playoff series since the 1984 World Series. A team that was on life support heading into the playoffs had a beating pulse. For the Yankees, the loss sparked cries for Torre's job. Management promised changes for 2007. For the sixth straight year, the World Series trophy would not be heading to the Bronx.
The Tigers carried Jim Leyland off the field before beginning their champagne celebration.
 Further Reading
|Major League Baseball American League Division Series