DETROIT -- The Yankees needed A.J. Burnett to save their season, and now the American League Division Series is going to be decided in New York.
Burnett stepped up to author his own story of pinstriped redemption and the Yankees staved off elimination, pounding out a 10-1 victory over the Tigers in Game 4 on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
"He pitched huge when we needed him the most," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "A.J. deserves all the credit. He shut down a tough team over there. He's the reason we get an opportunity to play on Thursday."
Yankee Stadium will host the decisive Game 5 on Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on TBS. Detroit plans to start right-hander Doug Fister, with the Yankees handing the ball to right-hander Ivan Nova.
"We have an opportunity to win a series," manager Joe Girardi said. "We fought all year long to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Hopefully, we can get it done on Thursday."
Originally slated to be in New York's bullpen, Burnett was pressed back into starting duty and rose to the challenge, delivering 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball to prolong the Yankees' season.
"It's big, but we don't win tonight without defense," Burnett said. "As well as we swung the bat and as well as we made pitches tonight, I think our defense was huge."
Two terrific catches by Curtis Granderson in center field stood tall, as the former Tigers star patrolled his old stomping grounds with aplomb.
Granderson backtracked and made a leaping grab of a Don Kelly liner to help Burnett escape a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, then made a sensational diving play on Jhonny Peralta's drive toward left-center to end the sixth.
"On both plays, to get them out of the situation and get runners off the field, getting us another chance to hit definitely ends up being big," Granderson said.
Slow to get up after the sixth-inning catch, the more difficult of the two, Granderson said he had the wind knocked out of him. The first play probably saved three runs and took the air out of a Detroit rally.
"He may have saved the season, not once, but twice," Alex Rodriguez said.
Before a six-run eighth inning blew the game open, New York pounced on right-hander Rick Porcello for four runs in six frames, sticking a two-run lead into Burnett's back pocket for the third inning.
Jeter connected for a two-run double over Austin Jackson's head in center field, driving in Jorge Posada and Russell Martin, with Martin scoring around a tag from catcher Alex Avila on a nifty slide.
"I thought he'd caught it and it was a double play," Jeter said. "Austin has run down a few of my fly balls over the years. But fortunately for us, that one fell in."
Victor Martinez's long homer off Burnett in the fourth inning cut Detroit's deficit to one run. But Burnett kept the damage there, and the Yankees answered with another pair of runs in the fifth.
Granderson doubled home Brett Gardner and, after an intentional walk to Robinson Cano, A-Rod knocked in Jeter with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to deep center.
That was enough for Burnett, who accomplished plenty in one evening to reverse the negative vibes he accrued over the course of an admittedly inconsistent season.
"People can have whatever perception they want of A.J., but he wants the ball," Martin said. "He wants to go out there and he wants to perform. His last few starts have been great."
Burnett's improved September followed an awful August, promoting Girardi's optimism that he'd provide a good start in the playoffs. Now, there's a teaser for more October work.
"You know me -- I feel like I should have gone further; too many walks," said Burnett, who issued four free passes, one intentional. "I guess a win is a win. I kept my team in it as best I could."
As Burnett exited in the sixth, he rapped Girardi on the rear with his glove -- which he later said might have been a "thank you" message for his season-long support.
"I was proud of what he did," Girardi said. "In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year."
One night after surrendering a go-ahead eighth-inning homer, Rafael Soriano silenced the Tigers over 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
"I like to pitch in that situation," Soriano said. "I like to pitch with the pressure."
Al Alburquerque balked in a run with the bases loaded in the eighth, then surrendered a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Jesus Montero, who was making his playoff debut.
Gardner picked up an RBI single and Daniel Schlereth uncorked a wild pitch that brought in another run. Cano completed the scoring, roping a two-run single to left.
The 10th run, marking the most runs scored New York has scored in an ALDS game, began clearing out the grandstands and sent a message. The Yankees may have been down, but they're off the mat and swinging hard.
"It was "game over" after that," Nick Swisher said. "Once you score six runs, that's it."
Perhaps it is fitting that a single game will wind up tipping the balance of this well-matched, enthralling ALDS. Using even numbers for contests may never be enough to decide the outcome.
"It's going to be a challenge for us," Jeter said. "Hopefully, we can win one more game."