Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/5/11
DETROIT It couldn't have been much more than hope and a prayer that A.J. Burnett would be the pitcher to keep the Yankees alive for a deciding fifth game in their playoff series against the Tigers. Whatever inspiration manager Joe Girardi had in sticking with Burnett in a game the Yankees had to win to extend their run in the postseason, his faith was rewarded. Burnett held up his end with a solid performance before departing with two out in the bottom of the sixth of what became a runaway 10-1 victory over the Tigers in the American League Divisional Series at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. The two teams meet Thursday night in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. The bottom fell out on the Tigers' hopes of ending the series at home and giving their loyal fans a chance to celebrate. The Yankees pulled away from a 4-1 lead with six runs in the eighth. It should not be overlooked how well Burnett pitched when the game was still in doubt, or what Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson did to give him run support and hold the Tigers at bay. They did what Yankees veterans are known for doing in the postseason. They made plays that win games and kept the Yankees' season from ending in Detroit. "We've got an opportunity," Girardi said after the game. "We fought all year long to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs." Tigers manager Jim Leyland would concede nothing. He added a touch of humor about going back to New York for Game 5. "It doesn't surprise me that this game is going five games," he said. "Hopefully, that suit I bought three or four days ago will be fixed now. "I can pick it up when I go back." Unlike Tuesday night, when Burnett was considered a liability by most people except Girard in being matched against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, Thursday night's pitching matchup could favor the Yankees. Ivan Nova will start for the Yankees against the Tigers' Doug Fister. It's a repeat of Game 1, when Nova and Fister started when the game was resumed a day after rain forced suspension. Nova gave up four hits and two runs in six and a third innings. Fister struggled, allowing seven hits and six runs in four and two thirds innings of a 9-3 loss. Burnett was effective Tuesday night, allowing four hits and one run, but not without a shaky first inning. He walked the bases loaded with two out, but Granderson bailed him out with an outstanding catch in centerfield of a hard liner by Don Kelly. Granderson seemed to hesitate for an instant before tracking the ball hit over his head. With a small jump and a long stretch, Granderson got the ball in his glove. Without the catch, the Yankees would have been in a 3-0 hole at least. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he thought it might have gone for an inside the park home run. "I thought it was going to be an out," Girardi said. "Then it just kept carrying and carrying. Curtis made two great grabs." Leyland saw Granderson's first catch as the turning point. "I think the key out in the game happened in the very first inning," Leyland said. Burnett was a spectator for Granderson's second catch. Girardi took him out with two out and a runner on first in the bottom of the sixth. Granderson dove to catch Jhonny Peralta's liner in left center. That made four runs that Granderson saved for Burnett and the Yankees. "We don't win tonight without defense," Burnett said. Granderson and Jeter contributed at the plate, too. It was Jeter's turn first to give Burnett a cushion. Porcello held the Yankees without a base runner until the third. With one out, Jeter smashed a liner to center that was out Austin Jackson's reach by a few inches. Those inches were gold the game's first runs for a 2-0 lead the Yankees would never give back. The Tigers had made it 2-1 in a homer by Victor Martinez in the fourth, but the Yankees took command in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Granderson and a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez. But Burnett's performance was the key for the Yankees. He gave the offense time to get rolling. He almost didn't make it out of the first inning, though. Girardi had Cory Wade warming up when Burnett was having control trouble. "I think you have to be prepared when you're in a must-win situation," Girardi said. Girardi has stuck by Burnett, whose struggled the last couple of seasons as a starter. "I was thrilled for him, but I was thrilled for us," Girardi said. "A great performance."
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