NEW YORK — Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers made the plays, benefited from an admitted missed call by an umpire and delivered during their few good opportunities at the plate.
The reward: a commanding 2-0 lead in the AL championship series, and a trip home with their ace ready to start.
Sanchez shut down a Yankees lineup minus injured Derek Jeter, and Detroit won without any drama this time, beating New York 3-0 Sunday.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched perfect ball into the sixth inning. But the slumping New York hitters looked lost a day after their captain broke his ankle in the 12th inning of a 6-4 loss.
Making his second postseason start, Sanchez threw three-hit ball deep into the game to make Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s job much easier. A day after closer Jose Valverde gave up four runs in the ninth, Leyland said the righty wouldn’t close Game 2.
“I thought we hung in there and took advantage of a couple of things,” Leyland said. “And those are some of the things you need in postseason play. You never know how it’s going to play out.”
The Tigers scored twice in the eighth after second base umpire Jeff Nelson missed a call on a two-out tag at second base. Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued, and was ejected on his 48th birthday.
“The hand did not get in before the tag,” Nelson said after seeing a replay. “The call was incorrect.”
Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Detroit, with reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers against Phil Hughes. Verlander went 2-0 in the division series versus Oakland, including a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the decisive Game 5.
The Tigers led 1-0 in the eighth and had Omar Infante on first with two outs. Austin Jackson singled and when Infante took a wide turn at second, right fielder Nick Swisher threw behind him.
Robinson Cano made a swipe tag as Infante made a head-first dive back to second. Cano missed Infante’s arm but brushed his body, replays clearly showed. But Nelson called Infante safe.
Cano and Girardi pleaded the call to no avail. Boone Logan replaced Kuroda and gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Avisail Garcia to make it 2-0.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort, I don’t, because he hustled to get to the play. But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it’s got to change,” Girardi said.
“These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake,” he said.
Girardi returned to lift Logan for Joba Chamberlain, and then he remained on the field to resume the argument. Red-faced with neck muscles bulging, Girardi could be seen shouting at Nelson, “You were right there. How could you miss it?” He was tossed by Nelson for his first postseason ejection.
Miguel Cabrera added a run-scoring single in the inning.
Cano had no luck at the plate, either. The All-Star’s slump extended to a record 26 hitless at-bats in a single postseason, breaking the mark of 24 set by Baltimore’s Bobby Bonilla in 1996, STATS LLC said.
There were many empty seats near the foul poles, and a subdued crowd spent much of the day venting its frustration, booing the punchless Yankees. The 47,082 in attendance reserved its biggest cheers early for Jeter, who broke his ankle in the 12th inning of Saturday night’s 6-4 loss.
The “Bleacher Creatures” included the captain in their roll call and fans let out a modest cheer pregame when Jeter was shown in video thanking fans on the scoreboard.
While the Yankees are headed to Detroit for what they hope will be three games, their captain will fly to Charlotte, N.C., to visit a foot specialist.
Jhonny Peralta singled in the sixth for the Tigers’ first baserunner against Kuroda, who was pitching on short rest for the first time in his big league career. Delmon Young then gave Detroit the lead with a forceout grounder in the seventh, a night after putting the Tigers ahead in the 12th inning with a double.
Sanchez has had quite the success in the Bronx. He made his big league debut at the old Yankee Stadium when it was across the street, and pitched 5 2-3 shutout innings for Marlins in 2006. The only player to notch two hits against him in that game was Jeter.
Pitching for the first time in this four-year-old ballpark — and in front of his parents — Sanchez limited the slumping Yankees to just three hits and three walks, one an intentional pass to Raul Ibanez.
When Ichiro Suzuki reached on Sanchez’s fielding error to open the sixth and advanced to third with two outs, Peralta was there to bail out his pitcher with another nifty play, bare-handing a slow grounder for the third out.
Sanchez made a crafty play of his own in the first with runners on first and second, reaching behind his back to glove Russell Martin’s comebacker.
Leyland took Valverde out of consideration for the closer role on Sunday. Valverde gave up a pair of two-run homers in the ninth inning Saturday night and also blew a save in the division series.
Former Yankees reliever Phil Coke pitched two innings for the save.
Kuroda did all he could to help keep it close for the Yankees’ anemic offense.
Curtis Granderson went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and a walk and Alex Rodriguez singled in the ninth for his third hit of the postseason and finished 1 for 4. A-Rod is 0 for 18 with 12 Ks against right-handed pitchers in these playoffs. When he lined out to left field in the seventh fans gave a mock cheer.
NOTES: Cabrera reached base in all 18 playoff games with Detroit, matching Hank Greenberg for the longest streak in team history.