Tigers chew away at Yankees for win

Tigers chew away at Yankees for win

DETROIT -- The Tigers didn't just wear down Kyle Farnsworth on Thursday night. They wore down Nate Robertson.

For the second time in three days, the Tigers came back from a five-run deficit against the Yankees. For the second time in three days, Robertson was in the dugout chewing gum for good luck. The more the Tigers hit, the more gum he put in his mouth.

"He said his mouth's starting to get a little raw," Curtis Granderson said, "and probably a little sugar-coated. I told him to switch to the sugar-free [gum], but he said, 'I'm not going to switch now. We've got a win going.'"

Unlike Tuesday, they really did have it. The winning hits came from the middle of the order, with RBI singles from Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen in the bottom of the ninth ending Detroit's four-game losing streak. The tone, however, came from the work atop of the lineup.

There was no indication whether Robertson was chewing gum as early as batting practice. While the Tigers were hitting, the Yankees were readying for their session, and Mariano Rivera was putting on his uniform. Somehow, Rivera suffered lower back spasms in the process, knocking him out of action.

Instead, former Tiger Farnsworth was in for the ninth.

"I have all the respect in the world for Farnsworth," Leyland said. "He was one of their own here last year, and he's nasty. But when you're talking about Mariano Rivera, you're talking about one of a kind, in my opinion. ... Was I glad he wasn't coming out there? Absolutely. There were probably about 25 guys on my bench who were glad, too."

Two days after Rivera breezed through three innings in 25 pitches, Farnsworth's first 17 pitches covered just two at-bats, and they put the Tigers in business for a rally.

Normally, Granderson only tries to work a pitcher like a leadoff hitter in his first at-bat. Thursday, he led off innings in four of his five plate appearances. Three times, he started Detroit rallies, each time working the count full. The ninth inning was the only time he didn't reach base, but he made Farnsworth work for it.

His nine-pitch at-bat ended with a flyout to left, but it arguably set the tone from there. Farnsworth fell behind on a 3-1 count to Thames, who fouled off three straight pitches from there before drawing ball four on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, putting the potential tying run on base.

"Every at-bat when you go 3-2 and you foul off a lot of pitches, you make the pitcher work harder and you get him tired," said Ordonez, who was waiting for a chance to hit. "Those were good at-bats. Marcus had a great at-bat."

Farnsworth pitched aggressively to Ivan Rodriguez, putting him in an 0-2 hole. Trying to get Rodriguez to chase, Farnsworth went to his slider and tried to put it off the outside. It wasn't outside enough.

"Pudge hit a pretty good slider," Farnsworth said. "I thought it was a good pitch. If you get a hitter reaching for a ball, it's a good pitch."

The liner to left put Thames on second base for Ordonez, who already had three RBIs in the comeback effort. His bases-loaded walk off starter Chien-Ming Wang put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the fourth before his two-run single in the fifth brought Detroit within a run.

"I didn't try to do too much," Ordonez said. "Put the ball in play, see what happens."

He was looking for a fastball, and Farnsworth gave him one on an 0-1 count. Ordonez slapped it through the right side, bringing Thames home and putting Pudge on second for Guillen.

"We're trying to concentrate every at-bat," Guillen said. "That's how we put more guys on base and how we score more runs."

Farnsworth (1-3) tried to work Guillen low in the zone and fell behind doing it. Faced with a 3-1 count and a ball away from putting the winning run on third base, Farnsworth went to his fastball over the plate. Guillen grounded it through the right side.

It was a game that Leyland said ahead of time probably wouldn't matter in the big picture of the season. It didn't keep him from relishing it, albeit with less sugar content than Robertson. As Leyland walked off the field, he gave a fist pump to the crowd behind the Tigers dugout. The fans loved it. So did Leyland.

He doesn't want his team to overreact to what's happened, but he wants to see fans go wild.

"That's what it's all about," Leyland said. "We played our tails off. Hopefully, they appreciate that. ...

"This team, they give you a good day's work. Fortunately, they get a good day's pay."

Fortunately for Robertson, they get a good dental plan.

"Chew as much gum as you want," Granderson said, "but try to get the sugar-free if you can."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.