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Valverde holds nerve as Tigers go 2-1 up on Yankees

(Reuters) - Detroit closer Jose Valverde survived another ninth-inning scare but held his nerve to preserve the Tigers' 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Monday, giving them the upper hand in their American League divisional series.

Valverde, who needed 34 pitches to subdue the Yankees in the final inning on Sunday, walked two batters in the ninth but struck out Derek Jeter for the game's final out with two New York runners on base.

The Tigers lead the series 2-1 and can eliminate the Yankees with a Game Four win in Detroit on Tuesday.

"Every now and again he (makes it interesting), but we have the utmost faith in (Valverde)," Detroit ace Justin Verlander told reporters after he earned the win.

"What a job he did, especially after throwing 30-something pitches (on Sunday)."

In a rematch of two of baseball's top pitchers Verlander and CC Sabathia, who had their series-opening showdown postponed in the second inning because of rain on Friday, it was the Detroit starter who picked up the win after Delmon Young broke a 4-4 tie with his home run in the seventh inning.

Verlander struck out 11 batters in eight innings, though he allowed a game-tying two-run double in the top of the seventh, to get the better of Sabathia.

New York's big left-hander never found his rhythm and gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings with six walks.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first inning but the Tigers hit back with two in the third.

New York tied the game in the seventh on Brett Gardner's two-run double, before Young struck with a long drive against Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano, who took the loss.

"I was just looking for a pitch I could handle. I've been looking for pitches out over the plate that I can drive," Young said. "You like our chances right now but anything can happen."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)