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Curtis Granderson, A.J. Burnett help Yankees beat Tigers 10-1

October 5, 2011

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— Curtis Granderson made two spectacular catches against his former team and A.J. Burnett came through when the Yankees needed him most, leading New York past the Detroit Tigers, 10-1, Tuesday night to send their AL playoff series back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5.

Derek Jeter rebounded from a game-ending strikeout Monday, putting the Yankees ahead to stay with a two-run double in the third inning. Granderson also had an RBI double and New York broke it open with six runs in the eighth.

“We don’t win that game tonight without defense,” Burnett said.

Shaky all season, Burnett started only because Game 1 was suspended by rain Friday. He was in trouble in the first after loading the bases on walks but Granderson made a leaping grab of Don Kelly’s line drive in center field, preventing at least three runs.

Game 5 is Thursday night in New York and rookie right-hander Ivan Nova, who shut down the Tigers in the opener, will start against Doug Fister. Both came on as relievers Saturday after Game 1 started Friday night but was halted after 11⁄2 innings.

“He’s been great for us all season long,” Granderson said about Nova. “Don’t expect anything different for him out there two days from now.”

Saved by Granderson’s glove, Burnett allowed a run and four hits in 52⁄3 innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

“I told you, his stuff is so good that he can shut you down. I thought we hit some balls pretty decent. He wasn’t real sharp early. We had our shot,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “That was a big play in the first inning.”

Granderson was on the Detroit team that went to the World Series in 2006, but the Tigers traded the popular outfielder to the Yankees as part of a three-team deal after the 2009 season. Max Scherzer, a pitcher Detroit received in the deal, left his mark on this series with an impressive Game 2 start. Then it was Granderson’s turn.

After hitting 41 home runs during the season to become an MVP contender, Granderson made his biggest impact Tuesday with his glove.

The Yankees didn’t plan to start Burnett in this series, but they didn’t have much of a choice after Game 1 took two days to finish. So they sent the erratic right-hander to the mound, hoping for the best.

“I was thrilled for him, but I was thrilled for us. What he did, 52⁄3 and only giving up that one run, a great performance. Struggled a little bit in the first inning and then really settled down nicely,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I was proud of what he did. In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year.”

Burnett is in the third season of a five-year, $82.5 million contract. He’s been largely a disappointment, but he gave the Yankees the start they needed with the season on the line.

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