Though Detroit returned home with its American League Division Series tied at a game apiece, Leyland sported a different lineup for Game 3 than he had for the two games in New York. But the lineup was more a reaction to the Tigers' previous few months against left-handed pitchers than the last couple days.
When the Tigers faced Toronto lefty Ted Lilly last week, Leyland treated it as a trial run for what he wanted to do against the Big Unit. Placido Polanco, just back from the disabled list, batted leadoff instead of Curtis Granderson, while Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames hit second and third, respectively. Granderson still played, but he batted near the bottom of the order. Polanco and Ivan Rodriguez homered that night, though Lilly struck out nine as the Blue Jays started the Tigers on their season-ending five-game losing streak.
The only change between the Tigers' lineup last Wednesday and their batting order on Friday was that Sean Casey started at first base, batting seventh, and Granderson hit ninth. As well as Granderson hit on Tuesday and Thursday, going a combined 4-for-10 with a triple and a home run, he's still a left-handed hitter in his first full big-league season.
"I think left-handed hitters are hitting .194 off Randy Johnson," Leyland said, "and obviously, Granderson has had a lot of strikeouts. He's swinging very well right now, but you're talking about a left-hander like Randy Johnson."
It made little difference to Granderson, a .218 hitter against southpaws, who played 139 out of 159 games at leadoff in the regular season.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "Leyland's going to make a decision no matter what [the recent history is]. It makes sense to go ahead and put someone else up there who's had better success against a guy. At the same time, it's almost like I get a chance to lead off, depending on what happens during the game. I could end up leading off an inning. I have to go ahead and be ready and do what's asked of me."
Welcome back: Ernie Harwell was just about certain he'd never broadcast again on Tigers radio, that he never wanted to step on his successors' feet. With the Tigers back in the playoffs, however, he was talked back into the booth, at least for a few innings on Friday night.
"I didn't want to be one of these guys who comes out of retirement," he said. "I was a little reluctant to even do this, but everybody convinced me, [saying], 'Well, you're not making a comeback. You're just going to do a couple of innings.' I've never liked to bring in a guy from the outside, but as long as they put up with me, that's OK."
The person doing much of the convincing, ironically, was one of his old co-workers. When Dan Dickerson asked Harwell in August about doing postseason games, he had no interest. With Harwell set to do a couple of innings for ESPN, though, Dickerson asked again. Harwell had no qualms.
Harwell, the voice of the Tigers for 42 years, was slated to do play-by-play in the second inning on the Tigers radio network, the third and fourth innings on ESPN, then the fifth on ESPN Radio.
"I'm the Shane Halter of the airwaves," he said, referring to the former Tigers utilityman who played all nine positions in a game.
No matter what he said about not wanting to intrude, Harwell was gladly welcomed. He visited the club for a few games this season, but he likes to keep it to a minimum.
"I watch it on TV and listen on the radio," he said, "and that's good enough for me. Plus, I read the media."
By keeping up as a fan, ironically, Harwell has had the chance to gauge the media attention, not to mention a sampling of the fan reaction. From what he's seen, this year's team has created as much or more excitement than the great teams of the '80s, simply by coming out of seemingly nowhere.
"I think in '68, we had a little bit longer time to build," Harwell said. "Once you won the pennant, you had a long time to set up your emotions. They clinched the pennant in mid-September, so you had almost two weeks to go. Whereas this thing comes on, though everybody anticipated it with hope and faith, it wasn't a sure thing until it actually happened. I think it took a little less time for it to peak in the playoffs than it did in '68. In '84, it was the same way."
Part of that appeal, too, has been for Harwell to watch some of the young players he covered as a broadcaster in his final season of 2002 develop into winners now.
"I think it's a wonderful thing to see them develop," Harwell said. "You never know how far guys are going. You might scout a guy when he's 18 years old and you have to project what he does when he's 25. But I think it takes a long time to build a farm system. [General manager Dave] Dombrowski finally got it done, but we waited a long time. That makes it all the sweeter, I think, when it does happen. I just hope that we see the Tigers keep on going. We've only taken the one step right now, and it's a long way to the end of the road. But who knows? It could happen."
On his own: It was lost in the hoopla over Thursday's win, but Monroe's attempt at a squeeze bunt could've ended up one of the more second-guessed decisions of the playoffs. With Carlos Guillen on third and two outs in the fourth inning of a 1-0 game, Monroe tried to surprise Mike Mussina by laying down a bunt, but he ended up laying down an easy comebacker for the third out. The Yankees scored three in the bottom half of the inning.
Leyland said that the bunt was Monroe's decision, yet Leyland -- who dreads the suicide squeeze -- had no problem with that.
"He bunted on his own," Leyland said, "and I thought it was a great play. If he gets it down, the infield's way back, it's a free hit and a free run. I think [the pitch] just got in on him a little bit."
Ironically, the bunt came a week after Leyland did call a squeeze play and said that he was giving opposing teams' scouts something to think about.
Winning ways: Jamie Walker's victory on Thursday made him just the 15th pitcher in Major League history to win a postseason game after not winning a single game in the regular season. Houston's Dan Wheeler and Atlanta's John Smoltz were the last to do it in 2004. No Tiger had done it since Virgil Trucks, who didn't return from service in World War II until the final days of the 1945 regular season before starting in the World Series.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.