Clutch hitting earns Young ALCS MVP honors
Delivers go-ahead runs in all four games and hits two homers
DETROIT -- In the hours before this American League Championship Series began, Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat behind a microphone inside Yankee Stadium, explaining the importance of getting Delmon Young going in the batter's box.
Apparently, Young got the message.
Detroit is heading to the World Series and Young played an integral role in helping the club issue a four-game brooming of the Yankees. For his part in the Tigers' first American League pennant since 2006, Young was named the ALCS Most Valuable Player after Detroit's 8-1 romp over New York on Thursday.
"Unbelievable," Leyland said. "He got hot again this year at the right time for us. He stepped it up under the big lights. Not that they aren't bright all year, but they are a little brighter this time of year."
While his teammates partied on the field and inside the home clubhouse, Young wore a wide smile on his face with his trophy -- topped with a bronze eagle, the American League's symbol -- resting on the table in front of him. Asked about earning a spot in the World Series, Young let out a slight laugh.
Young's path to ALCS MVP
"As a child growing up," Young said, "your dream is always winning Game 7 in the World Series -- walk-off hit. So it's fun knowing you get to go there."
Young, who was born in Alabama, always pictured himself beating New York.
"My childhood dream was playing shortstop next to Chipper Jones," he said, "trying to beat the Yankees in the World Series."
Shortstop was not in the cards for the 240-pounder, but the Cardinals could be on deck.
The Tigers will await the winner of the National League Championship Series -- St. Louis or San Francisco -- and now have five days off until the World Series begins on Wednesday. Young said it will be worth the wait, especially since Detroit lost to Texas in the ALCS a year ago.
Now, the Tigers will get a chance at redemption for that defeat, and for the club's 2006 World Series loss at the hands of the Cardinals.
"We all gained experience," Young said of Detroit's 2011 postseason. "We just knew if we had another opportunity, that we would have a better shot at it this year."
Young picked a perfect time to warm up offensively, considering Mr. Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera, and slugger Prince Fielder were slow out of the gates this October. The designated hitter grabbed hold of the franchise's record for career home runs in the playoffs and he came up big repeatedly for a lineup that struggled to score in the days leading up to Game 4.
In each of the first three games of the ALCS, Young knocked in the run that put the Tigers ahead for good. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that made him the first player in baseball history to accomplish that feat in three consecutive postseason games.
For the series, Young hit .375 (6-for-16) with two home runs, two walks, three runs scored and six RBIs for the AL Central-champion Tigers. He became just the sixth player in ALCS history to collect at least six RBIs in four or fewer games played. Magglio Ordonez was the last player to do so -- also for Detroit during the team's 2006 run to the World Series.
Graig Nettles, who drove in nine RBIs in three games for the Yankees in the 1981 ALCS, leads that exclusive list. The other players with at least six RBIs in four or fewer games in ALCS history are Reggie Jackson (six, 1978, Yankees), Boog Powell (six, 1970, Orioles) and Paul Blair (six, 1969, Orioles).
Young chose not to focus on his achievements. Instead, he was quick to point out that Detroit's starting rotation -- Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer -- led the charge by limiting the Yankees to two runs in 27 1/3 innings.
"Our pitching carried us," Young said. "We didn't need to go out there and score five, six runs every game to win the ballgame. With the zeros they were putting up, one to two runs with them was a lot, because they were hot going into every game and pitching deep into the ballgames."
Young now boasts the most career home runs (seven) by a Tigers hitter in postseason play and ranks third on the franchise's all-time chart with 14 career RBIs in the playoffs. Hank Greenberg tops that list with 22 RBIs and Young's teammate, Cabrera, is second with 15 RBIs in his postseason career for Detroit.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila echoed Young's thoughts.
"Delmon was huge for us as far as being the MVP," Avila said. "But our staff as a whole was unbelievable."
During Thursday's finale, Young put the Tigers on the board in the first inning, when he pushed a pitch from Yankees ace CC Sabathia into right field for a run-scoring single. Young drew a walk in the third inning and added another base hit off Sabathia in the fourth. Following that single, Jhonny Peralta brought Young home with a two-run homer to left field.
In Game 1, Young finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs in Detroit's 6-4, 12-inning victory in the Bronx. He launched a solo home run off veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe in the eighth inning of that contest. Young drove in another run in a 3-0 win in Game 2 and -- back home in Detroit -- he went 1-for-3 with a fourth-inning homer off Phil Hughes in a 2-1 win in Game 3.
Young now joins Placido Polanco (2006) and Kirk Gibson (1984) as the only ALCS Most Valuable Player winners in Tigers history.
"The MVP," Leyland said. "What a tremendous honor for him."