NEW YORK -- The Tigers were seeking an early statement on Tuesday night -- a definitive notice to the Yankees that they were nursing no hangover from the disappointment of the lost division crown. Manager Jim Leyland wanted to make such a statement on the basepaths: Get guys on, get guys running and get guys home. Oh, if only things had worked out that way for Detroit in Tuesday's 8-4 ALDS Game 1 loss at Yankee Stadium.
The Tigers got the first part of the equation right in the early going. But they ran themselves out of a potential big second inning, grounded their way out of the third and whiffed their way out of the fourth. Had those innings gone more to plan, the Tigers might not have been in as much trouble as they were when the Yankees strung together a five-run third off Nate Robertson. "We've got to learn to get those guys in," Curtis Granderson said. "We had opportunities early, but we weren't able to capitalize on them." Witness one particularly noteworthy play in the second, after Magglio Ordonez had led off with a double and Carlos Guillen had drawn a walk off Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang. Ivan Rodriguez stepped to the plate and got the bunt signal, but Wang's first-pitch offering was a ball. Now the Yankees' corner infielders were drawn in for the bunt, and Leyland decided to go for the throat with a hit-and-run play. With Wang prone to getting ground balls, it was Leyland's best effort to counteract any chance of a double-play ball. But Wang wasn't having it. The right-hander threw a nasty sinker near Rodriguez's knee. With the runners going, Rodriguez made the best stab at the ball that he could to at least foul it off, but he couldn't get to it. Ordonez was easily gunned down at third by catcher Jorge Posada. "We tried to move some runners, and it was the perfect situation for it," Leyland said of the play. "[Wang] threw probably the nastiest sinker that he threw all night." Rodriguez seconded that notion. "That ball was at the back of my knee," he said. "That's a tough pitch to hit. I did my best, but I just couldn't make contact." The play took all the wind out of the Tigers' sails for that inning. Rodriguez went on to strike out and Craig Monroe grounded out to end it. In the third, Marcus Thames led off with a double and Granderson singled with one out to put runners on the corners. This time, Wang did get the double play, with Placido Polanco hitting into it.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.