Looking to make a statement by taking three of four from the Tigers, the Yankees handed the ball to Shane Greene Thursday and hoped for the best.
In every sense, that's exactly what they got.
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In a week when so much of the attention centered on Detroit's rotation full of big-name pitchers, it was the Yankees rookie with little fanfare who was the most impressive.
Making his sixth start, Greene went eight innings-plus as the Yankees beat the AL Central leaders, 1-0, for their fifth victory in six games. "He did everything it took to beat a very good team one-nothing,'' Joe Girardi said.
David Robertson picked up his 31st save in 33 tries, escaping a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth by getting Miguel Cabrera to ground into a double play and Don Kelly to pop out.
At 60-54, the Yankees matched their high-water mark of six games over .500, which they did twice previously.
"We faced a really good team with a really good rotation, and it gives us confidence now that we can beat anybody,'' Francisco Cervelli said. "We're still there, we're going to compete and we want to be in the playoffs.''
A big reason the Yankees are feeling so good about themselves today is Greene, someone they never would have envisioned counting on in such an important spot. But injuries that sidelined four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation have tested their depth, and Greene has run with the opportunity.
"The nerves are gone,'' he said. "I'm starting to feel comfortable.''
It shows. Matched against Rick Porcello, Greene (3-1, 2.89) allowed five singles and three walks and got Victor Martinez to hit into a double play with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth. Porcello (13-6, 3.09) was nearly as good, giving up one run in seven innings. But Stephen Drew's two-out double in the fourth provided all the run support Greene needed before a crowd of 47,013 at the Stadium.
Porcello retired 10 of his first 12 batters, including the first two in the fourth. But after singles by Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley, Drew's looper to shallow left landed just inside the foul line and bounced into the stands.
Greene said he was frustrated in the bullpen before the game because "the ball wasn't going where I wanted it to. But the last two or three pitches it did, so I shut it down because I wanted to go out there on that note.''
It worked. Greene threw only 98 pitches through eight innings, so Girardi let him try to complete the shutout. Having been told nothing on the bench between innings, Greene got the message that the ninth was his to start. Still, he ran to the mound as if he didn't want to give Girardi time to change his mind.
But when Ian Kinsler singled to center on Greene's first pitch, Girardi brought in Robertson to face Martinez. Robertson walked him before Cabrera's 4-4-3 double play moved Kinsler to third. Cervelli helped to save Greene's gem, blocking two pitches in the dirt, before Kelly popped out to end it.
Yankees starters allowed three earned runs in 271/3 innings in the series. The staff allowed six runs (four earned) in 39 innings and held Cabrera to 1-for-10.
It was the 17th game in the Yankees' last 18 decided by one or two runs. "We're winning the close games at home,'' Girardi said. "We need to do that if we want to play in October.''