Yankees take it to the limit against Tigers

Given the depth and star power of the Yankees’ lineup, you could probably argue for days over who was most responsible for getting New York to the postseason.

But there’s no debating who kept them there, with pitcher A.J. Burnett going 52/3 strong innings and center fielder Curtis Granderson saving at least four runs with a pair of great catches as the Yankees staved off elimination Tuesday with a 10-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the American League division series at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Game 5 is Thursday at Yankee Stadium, with the winner facing the Texas Rangers in the AL Championship Series.

Burnett, who owed his playoff start to the rain that interrupted Game 1, scrambling both teams’ rotations, made the most of his opportunity by holding Detroit to a run and four hits.

“I was thrilled for him, but I was thrilled for us,” said Yankee Manager Joe Girardi, who lost faith in Burnett at times this season. “In a must-win situation he pitched one of his best games of the year.”


But he got some key help from Granderson, who made a leaping, tumbling grab of Don Kelly’s first-inning line drive after Burnett had walked the bases full with two out, and from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who ironed out a mechanical issue with Burnett’s windup between innings.

“He’s made plays for us like that all year,” Burnett said of Granderson. “So we don’t win that game tonight without defense. He saved me a couple of runs.”

And he saved the Yankees a couple of more in the sixth when he sprinted far into left-center to make a spectacular backhanded sliding catch on Jhonny Peralta’s drive, preserving a 4-1 lead after Rafael Soriano relieved Burnett.

“That was an interesting one because I was a little bit out of position. Probably because I’m playing the odds of where I think he’s possibly going to hit it,” Granderson said, “The ball hung up a little bit. And I was able to go ahead and extend long enough to be able to catch it.”

The Tigers didn’t get another baserunner the rest of the way with six of the last eight batters striking out.

The Yankees, meanwhile, had gone ahead to stay on a two-run Derek Jeter double in the third. After Victor Martinez halved the deficit for Detroit, hitting a solo homer off a 3-0 pitch leading off the fourth, the Yankees came right back in their next at-bat with Granderson doubling home Brett Gardner and Jeter scoring two batters later on an Alex Rodriguez fly ball.

All those runs came off Tigers starter Rick Porcello. The Yankees then broke the game open against the Detroit bullpen in a six-run eighth, with one run scoring on a balk, another on a wild pitch that bounced over the backstop and two more on a Robinson Cano single that gave him eight RBIs in the series.

Six Yankees had either two hits or two RBIs on the night, including Jesus Montero, who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and finished with two singles, a run scored and another driven in.

“We have an opportunity to win a series,” Girardi said. “We fought all year long to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Hopefully we can get it done.”

Baxter reported from Los Angeles.