Yankees-Tigers: Bombers Splitting Series on Road Was Crucial to Gaining Momentum

Doug RushSenior Analyst IAugust 9, 2012

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 09: Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run in the eight inning and is congratulated by teammate Eric Chavez #12 during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 9, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

On Thursday, the New York Yankees completed their series with the Detroit Tigers by beating them 4-3 at Comerica Park.

The final game had somewhat of a playoff-atmosphere feeling between the two. I mean, granted, these two teams met in the 2011 American League Division Series back in October.

But for the last four days, the battle between the Yankees and Tigers had that playoff atmosphere. The Yankees are trying to hold onto their lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, while the Tigers are just a game behind the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.

You saw a good pitching performance by Hiroki Kuroda, who just continues to give the Yankees quality innings and great starts, as he went 6.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and three runs and striking out five.

You saw the bullpen of the Yankees hold the lead, including closer Rafael Soriano wiggling out of a first and third with no out situation in the bottom of the ninth inning and harnessing his inner Mariano Rivera on the mound.

You even saw Yankees manager Joe Girardi go ballistic at umpire Tim Welke for screwing up a call on a double hit by Andy Dirks, which hit the chalk in left field and at first, Welke held up his arms to call foul, but then signaled that it was a hit, which caused confusion with Raul Ibanez, who went to go get the ball.

Welke even admitted to Girardi he screwed up on the call, which seemed to enrage the Yankees skipper into a rare tirade and led to his ejection in the fifth inning.

YES play-by-play announcer Michael Kay said that in the 16 years he has known Girardi, he had never seen him that angry as a player, coach or manager.

But the thing that was most important in the series finale was you saw clutch, situational hitting.

The Yankees were trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning and were facing Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit.

Mark Teixeira crushed a solo blast to right field that tied the game at 3-3 and changed the feeling of the game.

With that home run, the Yankees went from less than an inning away from losing three out of four to potentially splitting a major series.

Then on the next at-bat against Benoit, Eric Chavez hits a ball the opposite way to left field and into the Tigers bullpen for the go-ahead home run that put the Yankees up 4-3.

If the Yankees want any chance of winning in October, they need that kind of hitting to show up.

In fact, during the second game of the series where the Yankees lost 6-5, the Yankees started to rally down from 6-3 with big RBI hits by Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Martin.

Earning a split with the Tigers was crucial to the Yankees leaving Motown with some confidence going forward into their next series, which will be against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Heading into Detroit, the Yankees had struggled in their last two series against the Red Sox and Orioles and their lead on the division was dwindling down.

It'll be at 5.5 starting on Friday, which might seem like a decent amount, but with the way the Yankees were playing, that could have evaporated in a week's time.

But earning that split was crucial to the Yankees going forward. Losing three of four heading into Toronto would not have been a fun experience or plane ride.

But now, the Yankees have a lot to feel good about when the series with Detroit ended on Thursday afternoon.

If the Yankees can continue that kind of momentum, they should see a successful end to their season that leads into October baseball.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.