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Big League Stew

ALCS Game 3: Justin Verlander and Phil Coke put Tigers on brink of World Series with 2-1 win

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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(Getty Images)

Score and situation: The Detroit Tigers moved one game away from a berth in the World Series with a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees in Tuesday night's Game 3 of the ALCS.

Leading lads: If there were any doubts that Justin Verlander wouldn't get it done in Game 3 — oops! — the ace right-hander and the impotent Yankees lineup sure didn't harbor any of them. Though his strikeout total was an uncharacteristic three, Verlander put the Yankees on the brink of elimination by limiting them to one run, three hits and no walks over 8 1/3 innings.

Verlander's  lone mistake came in the ninth inning when he surrendered a leadoff home run to Eduardo Nunez, but he retired the next batter (Brett Gardner) before leaving the real drama to Phil Coke after throwing 132 pitches. The left-handed reliever got Ichiro to ground out, before giving up consecutive hits to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. There was no blown save in this story, though, as Coke got the 27th out on a 3-2 slider for a strikeout of postseason hero Raul Ibanez.

As for the Tigers offense, Delmon Young got the Tigers on the board with a solo home run in the fourth inning while Miguel Cabrera tacked on an insurance run they'd end up needing by doubling home Quintin Berry in the fifth.

Head hangers: Ichiro had New York's only two hits through the first eight innings, so stick the rest of the Yankees lineup under this heading for failing to score in innings 1 through 8 for the third straight game. New York starter Phil Hughes was a non-factor, pitching so-so baseball for three innings before being pulled for a combination of five relievers.

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Phil Coke after the final out. (Getty Images)

Key play: Coke's game-ending strikeout of Raul Ibanez was as big as it gets.

Interesting stat: The Yankees haven't been swept in a postseason series since facing the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 ALCS. That's a span of 36 playoff series.

What they'll be talking about: There's going to be any amount of Yankee hand-wringing, but can we just take a moment to appreciate what Verlander and Detroit pitching have done the past two weeks? The Tigers ace is 3-0 in his first three postseason starts this year, pitching 24 1/3 innings, giving up a total of two earned runs while striking out 25 and walking only five. The Nunez homer snapped a 37 2/3 scoreless inning streak that Tigers starters had posted for a postseason record, but Coke ensured that it's a blemish Detroit fans will be able to live with.

What's next: The Tigers swept their way into the 2006 World Series over Oakland and they'll aim to do the same in Wednesday night's Game 4 over New York. CC Sabathia is charged with saving the Yankees' season while Max Scherzer will aim to close it. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET.

Make sure all of your bases are covered this postseason ...
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