DETROIT — Delmon Young came into the 2012 playoffs flailing at balls outside the strike zone and drawing the ire of Tigers fans everywhere.
Now, for the second postseason in a row, he’s killing the New York Yankees.
Young led off the Tigers’ fourth inning Tuesday by depositing a Phil Hughes pitch into the Detroit bullpen for a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers — behind another masterful pitching performance by Justin Verlander — then held on for a 2-1 victory and a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series, which continues Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
Young’s homer, a line drive that pierced the strong breeze blowing in from left field, was his second of the 2012 ALCS and his fifth against the Yankees over the last two postseasons.
“I knew I hit it hard enough, but we weren’t at Yankee Stadium, so I had to wait for it to land another 30 feet for it to go out,” said Young, sarcastically commenting on the band-box dimensions of the new ballpark in the Bronx.
Young, acquired from Minnesota in August 2011, hit three bombs in the Tigers’ AL Division Series victory over the Yankees last year, becoming the first player in franchise history with three homers in a single playoff series.
Despite suffering an oblique injury in the decisive Game 5 in New York, he played in the ALCS and hit two more homers in the Game 5 victory over the Texas Rangers.
That gives Young seven postseason homers in a Tigers uniform, also a team record. His 13 postseason RBIs are tied with Miguel Cabrera for second in team history.
“He had a great postseason last year, and he picked up right where he left off,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “A huge hit tonight.”
It’s been a hugely inconsistent season for Young on the field. He hit .267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs, but he struck out 112 times in 574 at-bats — roughly 20 percent of the time. He walked just 20 times.
And there was that ugly off-the-field incident in New York in early April, when Young was arrested for reportedly using an anti-Semitic slur during an altercation with four men outside the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. He later apologized for the occurrence, but the court case remains pending.
What’s not pending is Young’s power in the playoffs.
“Little brother’s tearing it up, stepping up at the right time,” said former Tiger Dmitri Young and Delmon’s big brother, who was at Tuesday’s game. “It’s impressive to watch him do it.
“I never got the chance to do it, so watching him do it is real fun, especially against the Yankees, you know?”
The Yankees know all too well that Delmon is doing it again — making life miserable for them.
“It feels good,” he said. “But it is a team contribution. We all want to win games in the postseason right now, and everyone is doing what they can.”