for this game

Bonderman shines as Tigers eliminate Yankees

Oct 7, 2006 - 11:31 PM DETROIT (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees had better talent, a higher payroll and a significant advantage in experience. All that the Detroit Tigers had was the superior team.

Jeremy Bonderman pitched the game of his life and received plenty of offensive support as the Tigers wrapped up their American League Division Series with an 8-3 victory over the Yankees.

Just three years removed from a 119-loss season, the Tigers stunned the baseball world by winning 95 games this year and overcoming a sluggish September to defeat the heavily favored Yankees in four games.

"I knew we'd get here eventually, but I didn't think we'd get here this soon," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "With Jim Leyland as a manager, he did an unbelievable job."

Detroit advances to the AL Championship Series to face Oakland, which completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota on Friday. The Tigers won five of nine meetings with the Athletics this season.

"Oakland is a very good team," Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson said. "We have to show them the same respect that we showed the Yankees. They can pitch and they can hit. It's going to be a very tough series."

Meanwhile, this is another colossal disappointment for the Yankees, who have baseball's highest payroll, a current or former All-Star at every position and expectations that exceed every other team on a yearly basis.

New York appeared in control of the series after posting an 8-4 triumph in Game One. But the Tigers shut down the Yankees the rest of the way, allowing just six runs over the final three contests to capture their first series victory since winning the 1984 World Series.

"Every game is a new chapter," Leyland said. "Things can turn quickly in these short series, particularly in a five-game series. It was a bonus for us to have to beat the Yankees three times instead of four."

After managing little offense against rookie Justin Verlander in Game Two and being held to five hits by Kenny Rogers and two relievers in Game Three, the Yankees were thoroughly baffled by Bonderman, who hardly seemed like he was making his first career playoff start.

"I really didn't get nervous at all," Bonderman said. "I just tried to come out, put it all together and help this team get it done. ... This is the greatest team I've ever played on, a great group of guys."

Bonderman (1-0) carried a perfect game into the sixth inning before Robinson Cano led off with a clean single up the middle. The 23-year-old righthander eventually yielded three more singles - and a run - in the seventh and another base hit in the ninth before leaving to a rousing ovation.

"Nobody gave us a shot in this series," Bonderman said. "That motivated us. You've got to come out and gotta be ready to go. The Yankees have a great team. They're the best lineup ever been put together, but I had to come out with my best stuff and I was able to do it."

Jamie Walker came on and retired Hideki Matsui before surrendering a two-run homer to Jorge Posada. But the lefthander recovered to get Cano on a grounder to second to send his teammates flying out of the dugout.

"We very happy with this win," Tigers closer Todd Jones said. "Nobody gave us a chance, but we proved ourselves. This is a step toward vindication for all those poor seasons."

In the middle of the wild celebration was Bonderman, who went 6-19 with a 5.56 ERA as a rookie in 2003, when the Tigers set an AL record for losses. But the former first-round pick has come full circle as evidenced by his latest performance in which he walked only one, struck out four and threw 70 of 99 pitches for strikes.

Magglio Ordonez, Craig Monroe and Ivan Rodriguez drove in two runs apiece for Detroit, which also recovered quickly from a season-ending five-game losing streak that cost the team the AL Central Division.

"These guys here, when Leyland came aboard, we talked about a couple things - be prepared, and play hard for nine innings, win or lose," Monroe said. "I'll tell you what, it stayed with us the whole year and there (are) 25 guys that have bonded so hard. And this is just the beginning. We feel like there's more to come. We're going to keep pushing and hopefully we get to that point."

After a quiet first inning, the Tigers jumped on Jaret Wright (0-1) in the second, taking a 3-0 lead on a leadoff homer by Ordonez and a two-run shot by Monroe. Prior to Monroe's blast, Wright had an 0-2 count on Rodriguez before throwing four straight pitches out of the strike zone.

Detroit tacked on another run in the third on a two-out rally that began with an error by heavily scrutinized third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Ordonez reached on a grounder that Rodriguez booted and then threw wide of first. Carlos Guillen followed with a bloop single into right and Ivan Rodriguez laced a single up the middle for a 4-0 lead.

That hit chased Wright, who was charged with four runs, five hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings to fall to 0-5 with a 9.16 ERA in the playoffs since 1998.

Cory Lidle came on and escaped the third, but ran into immediate trouble in the following frame. Placido Polanco, Sean Casey and Ordonez opened the inning with consecutive singles to plate a run, Guillen lined an RBI double into the right field corner and Ivan Rodriguez lofted a sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a 7-0 bulge.

"Today, it was a big game for us," Guillen said. "In this kind of situation, you've got nine guys over there with a bat. They can do some damage."

Casey's RBI double in the sixth made it 8-0 before the Yankees finally got on the board in the seventh on Matsui's run-scoring forceout.

While Detroit came up with one clutch hit after another, New York's situation could not have been farther from the case.

"They played well," said Derek Jeter, one of the few Yankees to have a good series. "That's the bottom line. Give Bonderman credit - he throws 95 or 96 (miles per hour) with a great slider, and he did exactly what they needed him to do today."

The poster boy for the Yankees' playoff failures continues to be Alex Rodriguez, who was dropped to eighth in the order for the first time since his rookie season of 1996. The highest-paid player in the sport went 0-for-3 on Saturday to finish the series 1-for-14. He is hitting an unimaginable .109 (5-for-46) over his last 13 postseason games.

"I can't talk about the whole lineup - I just know I could have done better," Rodriguez said. "I have no one to blame but myself."

Posada and Bobby Abreu finished with two hits apiece, but the rest of the lineup combined to go 2-for-25 as the Yankees lost for the 10th time in their last 13 playoff games.

"It's certainly disappointing and everyone in that locker room is disappointed," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They outplayed us. They outpitched us. There's not much else you can say. We were certainly ready to play when we came into this series and we felt pretty good about ourselves. They showed that good pitching can stop good hitting."

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