NEW YORK -- It appears as if the Yankees have decided to start playing playoff baseball in August -- low scoring, pitching dominant and with solid defense.
And for four days against the AL Central-leading Tigers, it worked. In the first three games, Yankee starters pitched exceptionally well, but none as well as Shane Greene did Thursday, and the result was a sweaty-palms 1-0 win that gave the Yankees three wins out of four games.
Dare to dream? These are the kinds of games the Yankees are going to have to win to make that dream come true.
Shane lightning: The Yankees got one of their best pitching performances of the year out of Greene, who in just his sixth major league start pitched eight shutout innings against the team with the highest batting average and OPS in the AL. Greene got some help from his infield, which turned two double plays, but also came up with big strikeouts when he needed them and got through the first three innings on a tidy 32 pitches. The eight shutout innings lowered Greene's ERA to 2.89. Manager Joe Girardi allowed Greene to start the ninth but after he allowed a leadoff single to Ian Kinsler, went to David Robertson for the save.
Tense moment: The Tigers got runners to first and second with none out in the ninth, and Brad Ausmus sent Miguel Cabrera up to pinch hit for J.D. Martinez. But the moment evaporated when Robertson got Miggy to tap into a double play. D-Rob then got the weak-hitting Don Kelly to line out softly to Stephen Drew to end the game with the tying run at third.
Great escapes: Twice in the game Greene found himself with two runners on, and escaped unscathed both times. In the fifth, he allowed a single and a walk to the Martinezes, Victor and J.D., but wriggled free when he struck out Kelly to end the inning. The sixth was a bit hairier, because singles by Ezequiel Carrera and Kinsler gave Detroit first and second with one out. But the new infield alignment of Ryan-to-Drew-to-Headley turned a neat double play to end the inning.
Tough luck: On most days, Tigers starter Rick Porcello would have pitched well enough to win -- 7 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 5 Ks -- but not on this day. In fact, all four games of this series featured good performances by Tigers starters, all of whom were matched, or outpitched, by their Yankees counterparts, who held Detroit to six runs over 39 innings.
Slicing and dicing: A slice shot off the bat of Drew dropped just inside the left-field line and one-hopped into the crowd to score Carlos Beltran from second with the first run of the game in the fifth inning. But the skip into the stands was also a bad break for the Yankees; had the ball stayed on the field, Chase Headley, who singled between Beltran and Drew, likely would have scored from first.
Rare occurrence: The Yankees got runners on first and second on back-to-back singles by Ichiro Suzuki and Brendan Ryan with one out in the third and Brett Gardner coming to the plate, but in what probably was the least likely result, the speedy Gardner rapped into a double play to end the inning. It was only the third time Gardner has hit into a DP all season.
Wasting no time: Greene needed just nine pitches to navigate a 1-2-3 first inning, and Porcello needed even less than that, seven, to set the first three Yankees down on three fly outs. The entire first inning took all of 11 minutes.
What's next: The Cleveland Indians and old buddy Nick Swisher come in for the weekend. Pitching matchups: TBD vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (4-6, 4.20) on Friday, first pitch at 7:05 p.m.; Brandon McCarthy (4-0, 2.08) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (12-6, 2.55) on Saturday and Hiroki Kuroda (7-7, 3.97) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (5-8, 4.75) on Sunday, both games at 1:05 p.m.