NEW YORK -- Shane Greene, upon being named the Tigers' closer, said the ninth inning contains the toughest three outs of a game. For his first save as closer, he had to get those, and two more.
As the Yankees' Matt Holliday stepped to the plate with one out in the eighth and the tying run on first Tuesday night, Brad Ausmus walked to the mound without hesitation and called on his new closer. The Tigers' manager had the idea in mind from the outset, warming Greene in the bullpen as the inning began.
"He has gone five outs before, so I wasn't really concerned," Ausmus said after the Tigers' 4-3 win at Yankee Stadium. "The only concern is in the ninth, if his pitch count really starts to get up there and you're forced to make another decision."
It probably won't be the last long save that Greene gets. When the Tigers traded Justin Wilson on Monday, they didn't just lose a closer. They lost depth in a bullpen that didn't have much. While Greene took Wilson's old role, somebody has to take his, and so on down the line. Eventually, rookie Joe Jimenez should find a role, but he's a floater for now, as Greene was for part of the summer.
Ausmus anticipated that challenge after the trade went down.
"We'll pitch anybody anywhere at this point to try to get outs," he said Monday.
On Tuesday, that anybody was Greene, whose first chance as closer came against his former team where his big league career began. He became a starter for a good stretch of the 2014 season in the Bronx, and it carried into his first season in Detroit in '15, but he likes this better.
"I enjoy competing on a daily basis," Greene said. "As a starter, you only get to do it once every five days. I will say that it's a pretty good feeling showing up at the park as a starter and knowing that you're pretty much the main reason why your team won the day before if you had a good one. But as a closer, running out of that door and your teammates looking, depending on you, and you being able to put your team on your back and get the job done, it's what I love."
Greene needed only one batter to get his two outs in the eighth, recovering from a 2-0 count to get Holliday to chase a cutter for a ground-ball double play. He came back out for the ninth with the bottom third of the Yankees' order due up, retired Chase Headley and Todd Frazier, and put pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury in an 0-2 hole.
It couldn't be that easy. Greene could not induce a call on a slider at the knees, then couldn't woo a swing from Ellsbury on the three pitches that followed, putting the potential tying run on for the top of the order.
After a first-pitch strike to Brett Gardner, Greene tried to ensure Ellsbury didn't stray far from first. The resulting pickoff throw went to the other side of Ellsbury and into foul territory in right field, sending Ellsbury to third.
Dixon Machado might have saved a tie game by cutting off Andrew Romine's throw to third, which was headed wide. But Greene still had one out to go. Once Ausmus opted to intentionally walk the lefty-hitting Gardner, who stole second, rookie Clint Frazier essentially became a win-or-lose batter.
Did Greene feel goose bumps?
"Goose bumps, no, but maybe a little more adrenaline rush," he said. "I love it, honestly. When the game's on the line, it's almost like you borderline black out and just compete, and that's what I feed off of."
Frazier watched Greene spot a slider and fastball for an 0-2 count, then chased a slider off the plate, popping it up to Machado. Eventually, that ball landed in Greene's locker.
"I'm going to give it to my mom," Greene said.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.