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Smyly earns first save vs. favorite foe

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Smyly earns first save vs. favorite foe play video for Smyly earns first save vs. favorite foe

DETROIT -- Maybe it's something about a left-hander from Arkansas. But like Cliff Lee, Drew Smyly seems to have something going against the Yankees.

Smyly earned his first Major League win against them last April in the Bronx. He picked up a postseason victory against the Bronx Bombers to open the American League Championship Series after they had seemingly grabbed the momentum with a game-tying home run off Jose Valverde.

Now, Smyly can claim the Yankees as the victim of his first Major League save. And it took him four innings to get it.

It isn't an addendum to the Tigers' closer-by-committee approach, but it was a reaction to Detroit's add-on runs thanks to Prince Fielder's second home run of the day. Smyly replaced starter Doug Fister to open the sixth inning, then kept retiring the Yankees in order, one inning after another.

By the time the ninth inning came around, the Tigers had a five-run lead, and Smyly had more pitches left in him. He had spent Spring Training as a starter, after all.

"After the first couple innings, I was feeling good, trying to throw strikes," Smyly said. "And the lineup's filled with lefties, so it was a good opportunity to stretch out, still get some of my innings in. I was taking it inning by inning, but when [manager Jim Leyland] left me out there for the ninth, I was pretty excited. I didn't know if he would or not, but I'm glad he had faith in me."

Down went the Yankees in order again. With that, Smyly qualified for the save, regardless of the margin of victory, because he pitched the final three innings and held the lead.

In so doing, Smyly became the first Tiger with a four-inning save since Esteban Yan did it against the Rangers on May 14, 2004.

Like Phil Coke in save situations during the ALCS, the lefty-lefty matchups favor a pitcher like Smyly against the Yankees. Still, with 12 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball against them for his career, Smyly is taking these matchups a long way.

"I think Smyly made some good pitches," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He pitched down in the zone very well, located very well. I didn't have a problem with what our guys did."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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