NEW YORK -- The Yankees sensed another epic comeback percolating on Sunday, seeing closer Jose Valverde wobble before catcher Alex Avila slipped while chasing a foul pop that would have been the final out of the game.
It had all the right ingredients for an entry in their postseason storybook collection, but there were no new chapters to be written on Sunday.
Robinson Cano squinted through the raindrops and slapped a ground ball for the final out as the Tigers held on for a 5-3 victory, taking Game 2 of the American League Division Series and evening the series at 1.
"You think that something good is going to happen for us," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "But Valverde, it's hard enough to score a run off him, let alone four. I thought we had some good at-bats and battled there at the end. We just fell short."
The ALDS is now reduced to a best-of-three series, with the Tigers holding home-field advantage. Comerica Park will set the scene on Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET, when aces CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander will reprise the original marquee pitching matchup from Game 1.
"It's obviously important," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of people talk about Game 3 being the most important game of a series all the time. It's real important."
The Yankees' seven-game ALDS winning streak, an all-time record, was snapped in the defeat. Max Scherzer ensured New York had its hands full: the right-hander held the Yankees hitless until Cano dunked a sixth-inning single into left field.
Making his first career postseason start, Scherzer permitted just one other hit over six-plus innings. The effort earned him applause from at least one opponent.
"He was really good -- the best I've ever seen him," said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. "Great fastball, his changeup was really, really good and the numbers don't lie. He just dominated us."
Making his first postseason start since the clinching Game 4 of the 2005 World Series with the White Sox, Freddy Garcia gave the Yankees pretty much what they would have expected, though it wasn't enough to keep pace with Scherzer.
Miguel Cabrera raked a line-drive two-run homer in the first inning on his way to collecting three RBIs as the Tigers got to Garcia for four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 frames.
"I settled down, waiting until we started hitting," said the soft-tossing Garcia, who scattered six hits while walking none and striking out six. "It never happened, but that's part of the game."
Two sixth-inning runs hurt the cause. After Jeter committed a throwing error on an Austin Jackson grounder to begin the frame, Ordonez followed with a single.
One out later, with runners at the corners, Cabrera dropped a run-scoring single into center field. Victor Martinez followed suit with an RBI hit, knocking Garcia from the game, but Girardi wouldn't second-guess not pitching around Cabrera.
"If you look at the success Victor Martinez has had behind him with runners in scoring position, if you start walking a lot of people, you can get in a lot of trouble," Girardi said.
Scherzer seemed to have some first-inning jitters, as Cano walked on four pitches and Alex Rodriguez received a free pass.
But Scherzer settled down, retiring Teixeira to begin a string of 11 straight Yankees retired before Jorge Posada walked in the fifth inning.
"Believe it or not, I was very calm, relaxed in the first inning," Scherzer said. "I made the adjustment of getting fired back up and picking up my tempo."
Few hitters had success against Scherzer, but Rodriguez heard the loudest boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd while extending his hitless streak this series to eight at-bats.
"No big deal -- we're really focused on the goal here," Rodriguez said. "One pitch at a time, we understand what we need to. There's no need to get caught up in emotions."
The Yankees had a shot to close the deficit in the seventh, as Scherzer left two on, but Joaquin Benoit recorded the next three outs to squelch the threat.
The Yankees wouldn't come to life until Curtis Granderson homered off Benoit in the eighth and Nick Swisher went deep off Valverde to start the ninth, cutting Detroit's lead to three runs.
New York's deficit might have been smaller, but Luis Ayala coughed up a run in the ninth, with Girardi bypassing other bullpen options like David Robertson or Rafael Soriano.
"If we got [the deficit] down to two, we were going to make a change," Girardi said. "Being down three runs, and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala."
As the ninth continued, Jorge Posada scored on a sacrifice fly after legging out his first career postseason triple. Valverde's pitch count rose to 34, but Jeter struck out and Cano grounded to second base for the 27th out.
"I thought we maybe had them on their heels a little bit at the end there, but he made a good pitch and got Cano out on a splitty," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said.
The game nearly ended one batter earlier, but Avila slipped on a vinyl batter's circle in front of the third-base dugout as he pursued a foul pop, a temporary reprieve that permitted Granderson to work a walk.
"I said, 'Wow, this might be our inning -- we might have a break there,'" Teixeira said. "You can't come through every single time. Robbie's been so big for us all year long. It's tough to score a lot of runs off a closer like that."