New York Jose Valverde and the Detroit Tigers nearly let this one slip away.
Instead, they’re on solid footing with ace Justin Verlander set to start back home at Comerica Park.
The Tigers and their excitable closer somehow held off the Yankees’ furious rain-soaked rally in the ninth inning, and Detroit beat New York, 5-3, on Sunday, evening their best-of-five AL playoff series at one game apiece.
Down, 5-1, the Yankees scored twice in the ninth and had a chance to win it after Detroit catcher Alex Avila lost his balance on the slick on-deck circle while chasing Curtis Granderson’s two-out foul popup.
“It’s tough to win games here, especially in the playoffs,” Avila said. “You get what you can and get ready for the next game and that’s all you can think about.”
After his pop landed untouched, Granderson walked. With two on, Robinson Cano came to the plate.
Cano, who hit a grand slam and had six RBIs as the Yankees won the opener, wiped away raindrops from his helmet while Valverde tried to get a good grip.
With the crowd roaring, Cano hit a routine groundball to end it.
“All of a sudden, against anybody — but particularly against a team like them with the short porch in right field — it was not a good feeling,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “But it worked out OK.”
Tigers starter Max Scherzer pitched no-hit ball into the sixth before Cano blooped an opposite-field single to left.
Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer in the first off Freddy Garcia gave Scherzer an early edge, and the Tigers took a 4-0 lead into the eighth.
Granderson hit a solo homer off Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit in the eighth. Pretty soon, the rain — and all the drama — filled Yankee Stadium.
“Today, we proved that we can compete. (Today) is going to be a different story,” Benoit said. “We go home, we’re going to play in our home ballpark, which is a little bit more fair.”
Game 3 is today at Detroit. In a rematch, of sorts, CC Sabathia is scheduled to start against Verlander, a 24-game winner. The two All-Stars faced each other in the series opener Friday, but the game was suspended after only 11⁄2 innings because of rain.
The Yankees lost three of four this year at Detroit and are 22-25 at Comerica Park since it opened in 2000.