What a great centerfielder!

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

Back to the land of corned beef-on-rain. One more New York night to see who advances in this baseball season. Detroit fans were in party mode early in Tuesday’s Game 4. They saw the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and shook their fists and said, “Here we go.”

But two amazing Curtis Granderson catches, one clutch performance by the beleaguered A.J. Burnett, a battering of the bullpen by a parade of Yankees hitters, and fans eventually realized that Jim Leyland was dead right when he said before this contest, “Everybody acts like all of a sudden this opponent isn’t real good. This is one of the great teams in baseball.”

No kidding.

Yankees 10, Tigers 1.

And this series has a fifth act.

Put away the comparisons to 2006. We’re reading an original script now. No three victories in a row. No stunned Bombers crawling back to the Bronx. The Yankees got at least one hit from every starter, two highlight grabs and an RBI double from Granderson (Hey, we should see if he wants to play in Detroit!) and the performance of the year from Burnett, who walks through his New York life like the guy in those commercials where they ask, “What’s your number?” His number is $82.5 million. That’s all anyone talks about when calling him a bust: “An $82.5 million contract and what’s he done?”

Well, he just did something pretty significant. He kept New York’s season alive.

“I told you his stuff is so good he could shut you down,” Leyland said after the loss. “We had our shot in that first inning.”

It was a dud.

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

What a great centerfielder!

If you’re looking for one key difference in the karma Tuesday night at Comerica Park, look no further than Granderson, the MVP candidate who wore a Tigers uniform the last time these teams met in the playoffs. Granderson’s diving centerfield catches in the first and sixth innings – both of which were something out of a Russian acrobat program – punched the Tigers’ hopes smack in the solar plexus. Both catches ended innings. Both left even Tigers fans wanting to watch the replays, they were that good.

The second catch “knocked the wind out of me,” Granderson told TBS right after the game. “That’s why I ended up staying down so long.”

But there was more at work here than Granderson. Remember, as nervous as the Yankees were handing the ball to Burnett, the Tigers were a tad unsure in trusting this one to 22-year-old pitcher Rick Porcello. Not that they had much choice. And not that Porcello hasn’t been fine this season, albeit, as Leyland said, “a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde.”

Still, it was the New Jersey kid’s first playoff start (unless you count the 163rd game two years ago against Minnesota to determine the Central Division champ, a game which showed how good he can be under pressure).

And Porcello wasn’t bad Tuesday night. He just wasn’t lights out. He hit a few batters. He surrendered a couple of doubles that nicked him – one to Derek Jeter in the third and another to Granderson in the fifth.

Mostly he didn’t have the luxury that Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had for parts or most of their winning performances – pitching with a lead.

Blame that on a tepid Tigers offense. Wha’ happened? Outside of Victor Martinez’s solo home run, too many of the Tigers’ big bats grounded out, hit dribblers to the mound or saw their contact turned into a double play. Sorry, but four hits isn’t gonna get it done. Not when the Yankees are lighting up your relief pitchers like jack-o-lanterns.

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

Jeter has his revenge, too

What a letdown. What a wet blanket feeling. Especially since the game began with such promise for Detroit. Porcello retired the side in the first, striking out Granderson to boot. And in their half, the Tigers drew three walks from Burnett (one intentional) and saw a relief pitcher already up in the New York bullpen.

It felt as if Monday night was still going on. The Tigers had all the jump, the Yanks were back on their heels. Fans were ready for a romp.

But Granderson began to take his revenge. With the bases loaded and two out, Don Kelly lined a shot to centerfield that could have sent three runs home and the city into hysterics. Instead, Granderson chased, leapt, caught the ball like Calvin Johnson and came down almost as hard – before rising quickly to his knees to be sure his glove was full and the Tigers were empty.

“Sometimes you pick a key out in the game,” Leyland said. “I think the key out in this game happened in the first inning. Donnie smoked that ball … it might have been an inside-the-park home run.”

That, believe it or not, was the last time the Tigers really threatened. If 43,527 fans knew that, they could have left a lot sooner.

Jeter got some payback for that game-ending strikeout in Game 3, slicing a hanging Porcello slider to deep center, putting New York ahead, 2-0, and quieting the crowd. Sadly, the Tigers’ bats were even more quiet. Following that first-inning fizz out, Detroit hitters grounded out or struck out in 12 of their next 15 at-bats.

The Yankees took a 4-1 lead into the sixth, when Burnett finally left the mound. And after a stream of Detroit relievers, too many hits allowed by Phil Coke, a balked-in run by Al Alburquerque, and…well, you don’t want to know the rest – the game was a blowout.

And the stands began to thin.

Back to the Bronx

So this is a one game season now. Somebody wins Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and somebody puts the cleats away. Leyland was smart when he refused to outweigh a home game over an away game, simply stating that the Tigers needed to win one and the Yankees two.

Make that even now.

And that’s OK. These teams are pretty even. Both are capable of offensive explosions. And both can get unexpectedly good pitching. The weather ensured that the clincher will not see Detroit’s best pitcher (Verlander is likely benchwarmers now). Game 5 will be Doug Fister (great since he got here, and not so great in Game 1) against rookie Ivan Nova, who stymied the Tigers over the weekend.

And it’s not as if the Tigers are carrying any momentum out of Tuesday’s limping performance. They ended the game going 1-2-3 on strikeouts.

“Hey, it doesn’t surprise me the series is going five games,” Leyland said.

But if we’ve learned anything from the four games played, it’s that the past is the past (Curtis Granderson plays for them now), the future is the future (hey, Burnett may now be hailed as a hero), and nobody knows what’s going to happen, except it’s going to happen in New York.

And it’s probably going to rain.

Yankees go home.

Tigers … well, go get ’em.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

Back to the land of corned beef-on-rain. One more New York night to see who advances in this baseball season. Detroit fans were in party mode early in Tuesday’s Game 4. They saw the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and shook their fists and said, “Here we go.”

But two amazing Curtis Granderson catches, one clutch performance by the beleaguered A.J. Burnett, a battering of the bullpen by a parade of Yankees hitters, and fans eventually realized that Jim Leyland was dead right when he said before this contest, “Everybody acts like all of a sudden this opponent isn’t real good. This is one of the great teams in baseball.”

No kidding.

Yankees 10, Tigers 1.

And this series has a fifth act.

Put away the comparisons to 2006. We’re reading an original script now. No three victories in a row. No stunned Bombers crawling back to the Bronx. The Yankees got at least one hit from every starter, two highlight grabs and an RBI double from Granderson (Hey, we should see if he wants to play in Detroit!) and the performance of the year from Burnett, who walks through his New York life like the guy in those commercials where they ask, “What’s your number?” His number is $82.5 million. That’s all anyone talks about when calling him a bust: “An $82.5 million contract and what’s he done?”

Well, he just did something pretty significant. He kept New York’s season alive.

“I told you his stuff is so good he could shut you down,” Leyland said after the loss. “We had our shot in that first inning.”

It was a dud.

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

What a great centerfielder!

If you’re looking for one key difference in the karma Tuesday night at Comerica Park, look no further than Granderson, the MVP candidate who wore a Tigers uniform the last time these teams met in the playoffs. Granderson’s diving centerfield catches in the first and sixth innings – both of which were something out of a Russian acrobat program – punched the Tigers’ hopes smack in the solar plexus. Both catches ended innings. Both left even Tigers fans wanting to watch the replays, they were that good.

The second catch “knocked the wind out of me,” Granderson told TBS right after the game. “That’s why I ended up staying down so long.”

But there was more at work here than Granderson. Remember, as nervous as the Yankees were handing the ball to Burnett, the Tigers were a tad unsure in trusting this one to 22-year-old pitcher Rick Porcello. Not that they had much choice. And not that Porcello hasn’t been fine this season, albeit, as Leyland said, “a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde.”

Still, it was the New Jersey kid’s first playoff start (unless you count the 163rd game two years ago against Minnesota to determine the Central Division champ, a game which showed how good he can be under pressure).

And Porcello wasn’t bad Tuesday night. He just wasn’t lights out. He hit a few batters. He surrendered a couple of doubles that nicked him – one to Derek Jeter in the third and another to Granderson in the fifth.

Mostly he didn’t have the luxury that Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had for parts or most of their winning performances – pitching with a lead.

Blame that on a tepid Tigers offense. Wha’ happened? Outside of Victor Martinez’s solo home run, too many of the Tigers’ big bats grounded out, hit dribblers to the mound or saw their contact turned into a double play. Sorry, but four hits isn’t gonna get it done. Not when the Yankees are lighting up your relief pitchers like jack-o-lanterns.

Yankees go home.

Tigers follow.

Jeter has his revenge, too

What a letdown. What a wet blanket feeling. Especially since the game began with such promise for Detroit. Porcello retired the side in the first, striking out Granderson to boot. And in their half, the Tigers drew three walks from Burnett (one intentional) and saw a relief pitcher already up in the New York bullpen.

It felt as if Monday night was still going on. The Tigers had all the jump, the Yanks were back on their heels. Fans were ready for a romp.

But Granderson began to take his revenge. With the bases loaded and two out, Don Kelly lined a shot to centerfield that could have sent three runs home and the city into hysterics. Instead, Granderson chased, leapt, caught the ball like Calvin Johnson and came down almost as hard – before rising quickly to his knees to be sure his glove was full and the Tigers were empty.

“Sometimes you pick a key out in the game,” Leyland said. “I think the key out in this game happened in the first inning. Donnie smoked that ball … it might have been an inside-the-park home run.”

That, believe it or not, was the last time the Tigers really threatened. If 43,527 fans knew that, they could have left a lot sooner.

Jeter got some payback for that game-ending strikeout in Game 3, slicing a hanging Porcello slider to deep center, putting New York ahead, 2-0, and quieting the crowd. Sadly, the Tigers’ bats were even more quiet. Following that first-inning fizz out, Detroit hitters grounded out or struck out in 12 of their next 15 at-bats.

The Yankees took a 4-1 lead into the sixth, when Burnett finally left the mound. And after a stream of Detroit relievers, too many hits allowed by Phil Coke, a balked-in run by Al Alburquerque, and…well, you don’t want to know the rest – the game was a blowout.

And the stands began to thin.

Back to the Bronx

So this is a one game season now. Somebody wins Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and somebody puts the cleats away. Leyland was smart when he refused to outweigh a home game over an away game, simply stating that the Tigers needed to win one and the Yankees two.

Make that even now.

And that’s OK. These teams are pretty even. Both are capable of offensive explosions. And both can get unexpectedly good pitching. The weather ensured that the clincher will not see Detroit’s best pitcher (Verlander is likely benchwarmers now). Game 5 will be Doug Fister (great since he got here, and not so great in Game 1) against rookie Ivan Nova, who stymied the Tigers over the weekend.

And it’s not as if the Tigers are carrying any momentum out of Tuesday’s limping performance. They ended the game going 1-2-3 on strikeouts.

“Hey, it doesn’t surprise me the series is going five games,” Leyland said.

But if we’ve learned anything from the four games played, it’s that the past is the past (Curtis Granderson plays for them now), the future is the future (hey, Burnett may now be hailed as a hero), and nobody knows what’s going to happen, except it’s going to happen in New York.

And it’s probably going to rain.

Yankees go home.

Tigers … well, go get ’em.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

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