(Reuters) - Detroit closer Jose Valverde nearly blew his team’s night during a shaky ninth inning but held on to finish off the New York Yankees 6-5 on Tuesday.
The visiting Yankees trailed 6-3 in the final inning but charged with two runs against Valverde and had two runners in scoring position when Curtis Granderson popped out to end the threat.
“I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to with the last pitch of the game,” Granderson told reporters. “I should have hit that ball a little better. Game of inches, as they say.”
Detroit’s (60-50) survival gave them a second straight triumph over New York (63-46) in their four-game series, and their sixth straight win overall.
They also pulled within just a half-game of the Chicago White Sox for first place in the American League Central Division.
“We’re a little different team at this point in the season than we were earlier in the season,” said Detroit catcher Alex Avila. “We can kind of taste the end of the season right now and taste the playoffs. We want it.”
A red-hot Miguel Cabrera led the way for the Tigers, homering for a third consecutive game and the 29th time this season, plus delivering a go-ahead two-run double in the fifth inning to increase his Major League-leading RBI total to 95.
Andy Dirks went 3-for-4 and added late RBIs to give the home team the three-run lead it would need in the end.
Starter Rick Porcello pitched 6 2/3 innings to record the win while New York’s Phil Hughes lasted just 4 1/3 innings and took the loss.
New York grabbed a 2-0 lead early on a two-run blast by Eric Chavez but Detroit seized control with two runs each in the fourth and fifth and never relinquished it.
The Yankees’ lead in the AL East was trimmed to five games with the defeat.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Magnowski