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Tigers Stun Yankees, Advance to Play A's

Strong start by Bonderman helps Detroit win, 8-3, and take AL Division Series in four games.

October 08, 2006|Dom Amore | Hartford Courant

DETROIT — Joe Torre fought back the urge to cry in the interview room when asked about the future. Brian Cashman was straining for words through the emotion in the hallway outside the locker room.

Another New York Yankees season is over, another team proved at the end that it didn't have what it was going to take, and this time the general manager who put it together and the manager in charge of holding it together were taking it harder than most of the players.

"Well, it's certainly disappointing," Torre said. "And everyone in that locker room is disappointed. They outplayed us, they outpitched us, there's not much you can say."

The Detroit Tigers completed the dismantling of the Yankees' season with an 8-3 victory Saturday at Comerica Park, clinching a 3-1 triumph in their division series.

"I said all of spring training, I want to get to where we take the field like the Yankees take the field," said Tigers Manager Jim Leyland, who has revitalized a franchise that lost a near-record 119 games with many of the same players in 2003. "There's a special air about them. There's a special confidence, not cockiness, but a special air. That's the level we want to get to. We've got to get that quiet swagger the Yankees get. I used them as a great example all spring, and it was kind of ironic that we got to play them, and fortunately beat them, in the playoffs."

Now the Tigers swagger on to play the Oakland Athletics in the AL Championship Series, and the Yankees, despite their $200-million payroll and a lineup that was compared to the greatest in history, packed up and limped home for a long, cold winter, one that could see many changes. They were the paper tigers in this series.

"Something wasn't right," said Cashman, who was given the authority last October to run the organization his way. "They played great baseball and we deserved exactly what we got. We played horrible. I'm stunned. I don't know what happened. I just don't know."

What happened was the Yankees rolled into this series and stumbled out in complete disarray, and their halfhearted attempts at fielding and their terrible first- and second-pitch swings against Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman made all the talk about mission, chemistry and sacrifice for the team that echoed all season ring hollow Saturday.

"Don't go there, this was not about effort," said catcher Jorge Posada, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth. "They played better than we did."

Said Derek Jeter, one of the remaining veterans of the four Yankees championship teams: "We made winning look easy, but it's not easy to do. What you're going through now makes you appreciate it more."

This game had the look and feel of the recent Yankees elimination games, the 10-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, the 2-0 loss to Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series and, most particularly, the 9-5 loss to the Angels in the 2002 division series.

All the Yankees needed was one win to go home and play a winner-take-all game, but they needed their No. 4 starter, Jaret Wright, to give them a chance, and he gave up home runs to Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe in the second inning. Bonderman retired the first 15 batters with only 40 pitches, and by the time the Yankees got a hit, Robinson Cano's single in the sixth, they were out of the game.

The Yankees, who won 97 games and the AL East title, had high hopes going into the playoffs. In the past, it could be said they ran up against better teams, hotter teams or teams that had their number in the postseason.

None of that could be said of the Tigers, who staggered into the playoffs with 31 losses in their last 50 games and lost five of seven against the Yankees in the regular season. Five of the nine hitters in their starting lineup batted below .260; Cano, who hit in the bottom half of the Yankees' order, hit .342.

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