Tigers' Anibal Sanchez, Phil Coke shut down Yankees

Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers reacts after Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers reacts after Russell Martin grounded out for the final out in the bottom of the sixth inning during Game 2 of the ALCS. (Oct. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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They played salsa music in the Bronx Sunday night. More specifically, the Tigers blared it from a speaker near the door of the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

An understandably festive mood has gripped this club, which got a second consecutive dominant performance by a starting pitcher.

Anibal Sanchez had just shut down a once-powerful Yankees lineup, minus the injured Derek Jeter, in the Tigers' 3-0 win in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Now the Tigers were heading home with a 2-0 lead and their ace, Justin Verlander, set to start Game 3 tomorrow night.

"Our starters have been there all year for us," catcher Alex Avila said. "To get pitching performances like this from Anibal Sanchez today and Doug Fister yesterday are huge. It puts us in a good position."

Tigers starters haven't allowed a run since Game 3 of the ALDS in Oakland. The righthanded Sanchez, arguably the weakest link in the rotation, had one of the best performances of his career Sunday. He threw seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and allowing three hits and three walks.

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"He was terrific," manager Jim Leyland said. "This is a tough place to pitch with a tough lineup and a short porch and a whole bunch of lefthanded hitters. It was not easy. That was quite a feat."

The performance had to be a relief to Leyland, who has been under a lot of pressure because of his struggling bullpen.

Before Sunday's game, Leyland announced that, at least for Game 2, he was relieving Jose Valverde of his closing duties. Valverde allowed a pair of two-run home runs in the ninth inning Saturday night that sent Game 1 into extra innings.

Leyland, after watching tape of the game until 3 a.m., noticed something wrong with Valverde's delivery and decided to sit him down until it can be corrected.

Valverde's replacement is going to be bullpen by committee, and in Game 2, that committee was lefthander Phil Coke, who earned the save after striking out three and giving up one hit in two innings. The former Yankee said he was inspired by the job he saw Sanchez do, and he wasn't the only one.

"Sanchez was awesome on the mound," outfielder Quintin Berry said. "He was throwing everything he wanted wherever he wanted. I knew he was going to give us a chance. If we got ahead, I thought we were going to keep it. We know we have a great pitching staff. People don't talk about them much. They stop at Verlander. But we know we have a lot of guys that people don't want to face."

Of course, Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, is the one they don't want to face the most.

Said Avila: "We're all feeling pretty good right now."

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