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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | AMERICAN LEAGUE

Jeter leads easy Yankees victory

Shortstop thrills partisan crowd with a record-tying five hits in an 8-4 win over Detroit in Game 1.

October 04, 2006|Dom Amore | Hartford Courant

NEW YORK — Derek Jeter has been there before and done this before. But it never seems to get old -- not to him and not to Yankees fans.

Jeter turned in another postseason classic Tuesday night, going five for five as the Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers, 8-4, in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. When he homered in the eighth inning, the 56,291 fans stopped chanting "M-V-P" and chanted his name as loud as it probably has ever been heard in New York.

The Yankees send Mike Mussina out for Game 2 tonight against rookie Justin Verlander.

Chien-Ming Wang was effective, as advertised, and the relief pitchers lived up to their reputation for living on the edge, though Mariano Rivera closed the game with plenty of breathing room.

Jeter made the most important defensive play of the game, starting a double play to get Wang out of trouble in the third, and helped set up the five-run rally in the bottom of the inning with a double. He doubled again in the sixth -- after the Tigers had closed to 5-3 -- to set the stage for Bobby Abreu's two-run single. Abreu had four runs batted in.

"When the team has a night like this, you're able to relax a little bit," Jeter said. "But it's a short series. You can't relax."

Jason Giambi had the first homer for the Yankees, a two-run shot that capped the five-run inning.

"We just don't have that kind of firepower," Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. "We need to just concentrate on doing what we can do, grind out each at-bat, put the ball in play with something on it and hope for the best."

For much of the game, it was about hanging on. Wang gave up three runs in the fifth but maintained the lead into the seventh, when Mike Myers relieved him and gave up a home run to Curtis Granderson, making it 7-4. Scott Proctor made it through the seventh, though he gave up two hits, and Kyle Farnsworth, despite starting with six consecutive balls, got through the eighth as Manager Joe Torre stuck with his plan to save Rivera for the ninth.

"I know he was kind of anxious," Rivera said of Torre. "Knowing him, definitely kind of anxious."

Jeter's home run in the eighth provided an insurance run.

Wang set down the Tigers in order in the first, but Magglio Ordonez led off the second with a double. Wang pitched around Carlos Guillen, and Leyland made an aggressive move, starting the runners with Ivan Rodriguez up. Rodriguez swung through the pitch and catcher Jorge Posada threw Ordonez out at third. Wang went on to strike out Rodriguez, then got Craig Monroe on a grounder to short -- the first potential turning point of the game.

Nate Robertson hit Giambi leading off the bottom of the second, then Alex Rodriguez, in the No. 6 spot, came up to a long ovation and chants of "Let's Go, A-Rod." He worked the count full but lined out to second baseman Placido Polanco, who made a leaping grab. Posada singled with two out to keep the inning going before Robinson Cano grounded out.

The Yankees sacrificed defense for offense with Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield in the lineup. In the third, Marcus Thames hit one down the left-field line and wound up with a double because Matsui, unsure whether it was fair, foul or touched by a fan, was slow going after it. Then Granderson hit one through the right side. Sheffield, the inexperienced first baseman, went back to cover the bag when he might have had a play on the ball. Thames, however, stopped at third. Wang then delivered his great equalizer, getting Polanco to ground to short, where Jeter made a backhand stop and off-balance flip to start a double play that ended the inning.

This time, the Yankees seized the momentum. Leading off, Johnny Damon beat out a slow roller. Jeter got his second hit, a double into the alley in left-center, and Abreu doubled to right-center to drive in both runners. Leyland came out for a visit, but Robertson's next pitch, to Sheffield, was smacked into right-center and Abreu scored. Giambi then hit a 1-and-2 pitch over the wall in right to make it 5-0.

"That's why they've got the payroll they've got," Robertson said. "They bring players in there to do what they did tonight. They fight off tough pitches and even do some damage to pitches that other guys can't do damage on."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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