Yankees 8, Tigers 4

Wednesday, October 4th 2006, 6:07 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Derek Jeter circled the bases, having homered to put an exclamation point on another historic night in the Bronx, when he became just the sixth player to get five hits in a postseason game and propelled the Yankees to victory in their playoff opener against Detroit.

These are his Yankees, and this is his era.

``We've been in this position a lot,'' the captain said after New York's 8-4 victory Tuesday night. ``We've been in a lot of postseason games. So you can't be afraid to fail. I mean, you always have to think positive. You know, you're not always going to come through. There's been plenty of times that I haven't. But when I'm in that situation, I feel as though I'm going to produce, or if I come up with a hit or make a play.''

In the Yankees' modern-day Murderers' Row, Jeter stands out.

He went 5-for-5 with two doubles and the home run. He raised his record for postseason hits to 147. With 48 postseason RBIs, Jeter tied Reggie Jackson and Manny Ramirez for third, trailing only Bernie Williams (80) and David Justice (63).

``He was great,'' Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. ``It was good because it was a tough game.''

Bobby Abreu had a two-run double and Jason Giambi hit a two-run homer in the third as New York's big boppers staked Chien-Ming Wang to a 5-0 lead. The five-run burst started, however, with something small _ Johnny Damon's slow roller for a single. Jeter followed with a double that put Nate Robertson in big trouble six outs into his postseason debut.

``He's played in so many playoff games, it's just another game to him,'' Giambi said.

After the Tigers crawled within two runs, Abreu added a two-run single in the sixth and Jeter hit his 17th postseason home run, an eighth-inning drive off Jamie Walker that upped his career postseason average to .315.

Six of New York's RBIs came from Abreu and Giambi, surprising given that Robertson held lefties to a .181 average during the regular season, the best among AL pitchers. Giambi was on base four times, also getting hit by pitches twice and walking.

``We can throw up runs as fast as anyone,'' said Damon, who had two of New York's 14 hits.

Now that everyone's healthy, New York's batting order poses a mighty challenge for pitchers. All nine starters are current or former All-Stars. Robinson Cano became the first player to ever start a postseason game batting ninth after finishing among the top three in his league in batting, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

``We just don't have that kind of firepower,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``We need to just concentrate on doing what we can do, grind out each at-bat, put the ball in play with something on it and hope for the best.''

Alex Rodriguez, the reigning AL MVP, was dropped to sixth in the order, his lowest slot since Seattle batted him eighth on May 7, 1996, according to Elias. He was a quiet 1-for-4 with two lineouts and a strikeout, extending his streak of postseason games without an RBI to nine and his playoff slump to 5-for-36 (.139) over 10 games.

``That's not a big deal. The important thing is we won the game,'' Rodriguez said.

Once again, he'll be compared with Jeter.

``I'm not disappointed,'' Steinbrenner said. ``A-Rod is doing his part.''

Wang didn't have his best sinker but got the win by allowing three runs in 6 2-3 innings, wiggling out of trouble in the second and third. Of the eight hits off him, five were doubles and one was a home run, a drive by Craig Monroe that started Detroit's three-run fifth.

``He was a bit of a Jeykll and Hyde from what we've seen in the past,'' Leyland said.

Curtis Granderson added a solo homer in the seventh off Mike Myers, who faced just one batter. Scott Proctor got Magglio Ordonez to pop out with runners at the corners, Kyle Farnsworth threw six straight balls starting the eighth but got out of it without a hit, and Mariano Rivera finished.

Rivera was sidelined for much of September by a strained muscle near his elbow and Yankees manager Joe Torre held to his promise of not using Rivera before the ninth.

``I know he was kind of anxious,'' Rivera said. ``Knowing him, definitely kind of anxious.''

Robertson gave up seven runs in 5 2-3 innings and took the loss _ Detroit's sixth straight.

``I didn't feel like I threw terrible, but my line doesn't look good at all,'' he said.

New York won its third straight postseason series opener. Mike Mussina (15-7) tries to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series when he starts on Wednesday night against Justin Verlander (17-9).

While the Yankees are in the postseason for the 12th straight year, Detroit played its first playoff game since the 1987 AL championship series.

``That's why they've got the payroll they've got,'' Robertson said. ``They bring players in there to do what they did tonight. They fight off tough pitches and even do some damage to pitches that other guys can't do damage on.''