NEW YORK (AP) – Justin Verlander overpowered Alex Rodriguez with 100 mph heat. Joel Zumaya topped that, his fastball whizzing by at 102.

The New York Yankees never saw what was coming, and the Detroit Tigers headed home with a split.

Verlander and Detroit’s bullpen held down New York’s mighty offense, Curtis Granderson’s go-ahead triple off Mike Mussina capped a comeback, and Detroit beat the Yankees 4-3 Thursday to leave them tied at one game apiece in their best-of-five AL playoff series.

“There’s a lot of people doubting us,” Zumaya said. “A lot of people don’t expect the Tigers to come out and play as good as we did. We have to prove ourselves and, obviously, we proved it a little bit today.”

Verlander, like Zumaya one of Detroit’s rookie sensations, pitched in and out of trouble for 5 2-3 innings, allowing seven hits and four walks. He gave his only runs on Johnny Damon’s fourth-inning homer, which put New York ahead 3-1.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland then made the unusual move to pull him with a runner on, one out and a 1-1 count on Robinson Cano. Jamie Walker came in, threw two balls, and induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

It was that type of up-and-down day for the wild-card Tigers, who ended a six-game losing streak that cost them the AL Central title last weekend.

“I just didn’t like the fastball before that. It was 92,” Leyland said. “I just said, ‘This is it. I’m going to make my move now. I know there’s a count on the hitter, but I’m going to make it right now.’ Just all of a sudden, your instincts take over and say, ‘Look, this is just not right.”‘

Those type of against-the-book moves helped Leyland turn around the Tigers in his first year as manager, stopping Detroit’s streak of losing seasons at 12.

“He’s a feel guy,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Walker, Zumaya and Todd Jones combined for one-hit relief, making New York’s modern-day Murderers’ Row resembled overmatched kids. Jones pitched the ninth for the save, giving up a leadoff single to Hideki Matsui. A soft tosser when compared to his hard-throwing ‘pen mates, Jones then struck out Jorge Posada, retired Cano on a soft fly and got Damon to fly out.

New York’s All-Star batting order struck out nine times and went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position.

“There are no breaks,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Sheppard announced: ‘Now pinch hitting: Reggie Jackson.”‘

Alex Rodriguez had another tough day, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including one that ended the first with the bases loaded. He’s 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in this series.

“I didn’t like him that well,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

Booed loudly after his final two at-bats, A-Rod hasn’t driven in a run in his last 10 postseason games and is 5-for-40 (.125) in his last 11.

“It’s not over. We’re just getting started,” Rodriguez said.

After the threat of rain caused a postponement Wednesday night, the skies were sunny for the rare postseason day game at Yankee Stadium. Leyland said the rainout helped rekindle his flame-throwers

“To be honest with you, I think we caught a big break,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from our club but if you look, the shadows were pretty tough as it got late in the game. And you’ve got a guy throwing 98, 99, 100 miles an hour with shadows.”

New York got just two hits in the final five innings, never advancing a runner past first. All that heat stunned a crowd of 56,252, who had been expected the Yankees to win again following Tuesday’s 8-4 victory.

“We couldn’t see the ball too well at the end of the game. That’s just unfortunate,” Damon said.

When the series resumes in Detroit on Friday night, former Yankee Kenny Rogers (17-8) will be opposed by Randy Johnson (17-11), who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 23 because of his balky back

“We’re counting on him big,” Steinbrenner said.

After winning their playoff opener against the Angels last year, the Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position as they lost the second game 5-3, and Los Angeles went on to win in five games. Steinbrenner wants the Yankees to finish off the Tigers in Detroit.

“We got to win two out there,” he said.

Marcus Thames, 6-for-7 against Mussina in his career, hit a second-inning RBI single, but Damon’s three-run run homer into the right-field upper deck put the Yankees ahead. The Tigers tied it at 3 on Granderson’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly and Carlos Guillen’s sixth-inning homer into the right-field lower deck.

Thames, originally selected by the Yankees in the 1996 draft, singled leading off the seventh for his third hit of the game, took second on Posada’s passed ball and went to third when No. 9 hitter Brandon Inge sacrificed.

New York moved the infield in and Granderson fell behind 0-2 and fouled off two more pitches before lining the ball to the wall in left-center. With the big hit, Granderson gave the Tigers a chance to close out the series at home.

“The fans are definitely going to be a big factor,” he said.

New York had loaded the bases in the first against the 23-year-old Verlander on Damon’s single and a pair of walks. But, after a mound visit from pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, Verlander got Rodriguez to miss a 99 mph fastball and foul off a 100 mph fastball before freezing him with an 84 mph curveball for a third strike.

New York got its first two runners on in the second but failed to score, and Gary Sheffield followed Bobby Abreu’s leadoff walk in the third by grounding into a double play.

After Damon’s homer and Derek Jeter’s double, Leyland visited the mound for a pointed chat with Verlander.

“Just keep making your pitches and don’t lose composure and get flustered and start flying all over the place waiting for something negative to happen,” he remembered telling him.

While Verlander was making his postseason debut, Mussina dropped to 7-8 in 21 postseason starts. Still, Detroit realized the tough task ahead.

“They can easily put 10 on us tomorrow,” Zumaya said.

Notes: Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3, the first postseason game in Detroit in 19 years.

AP-ES-10-05-06 1841EDT

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