Batter after batter, they went down like chopped vines. A harmless popout. A dribbler to second base. Justin Verlander would machete through the Yankees, sit down for 20 minutes, come back and do it again. A fly to left. A pop foul. A strikeout. A lawn mower doesn't flatten things this easily. I know his talent is deceivingly large, but honestly, given the lackluster New York batting, it sometimes looked like Verlander's biggest challenge Tuesday night was staying warm.

Or awake.

Zeroing in. The Tigers went to bed Tuesday night one victory away from the World Series -- thanks to Verlander and yes, an amazing relief pitching moment from Phil Coke -- and the way this team is pitching, it may get a whole lot of nights to contemplate that appearance.

"Pitching is contagious, just like hitting is," Verlander said after the 2-1 victory in Game 3 that ended with Coke striking out the smoking-hot Raul Ibanez with two on in the top of the ninth. "You see somebody go out there and have a great game, you want to go out there and one-up that guy."

Well, nobody one-ups Verlander. But maybe that's what motivated Coke in his memorable strikeout to end the game and put the Tigers up, 3-0, in this American League Championship Series.

Can't we just keep going? Can't we just keep playing the Yankees for another week or so, call it the Fall Classic, all go home happy? I don't want to say the Tigers are in a groove, but this kind of baseball run is truly rare, like steering a canoe oarless through the rapids. There is stardust coming off the fingertips of the Tigers' pitchers. You take away the ninth inning in Game 1 of this ALCS (or as Henny Youngman would put it, "Take that inning -- please!") and the Tigers have pitched 38 straight innings and surrendered one run. You don't do that in the regular season against the worst team in baseball. The Tigers have done it against two playoff teams -- the Athletics and the Yankees.