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Tigers reliever Shane Greene has appeared in 48 of the team’s first 97 games this season. A look at the pace he’s on if he keeps on pitching. Video by Ryan Ford/DFP
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NEW YORK – In the biggest moment of his season, as the ball rolled down the rightfield line and the tying run rolled into third base, Shane Greene was laughing in his head.

It took him all the way back to 2014, at this very stadium where he began his career as a starting pitcher, when he committed three errors in a game against the Texas Rangers.

“It’s kind of funny,” he said. “I haven’t thrown a ball away on a pick-off since I was a Yankee.”

And there he was on Tuesday night, creating his own mess in his first save chance as the Detroit Tigers’ closer. He was tasked with a five-out save and notched the first four, before walking Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and throwing a pick-off attempt into foul territory in rightfield. The Tigers were up a run, the home crowd at Yankee Stadium had awakened, and Greene was laughing.

Such is the mentality of the man who is now pitching in the highest-pressure situations. A few pitches later, with not only the tying run but the winning run to worry about – Brett Gardner was intentionally walked and stole second base – Greene recorded his first save as the Tigers’ closer in 4-3 win.

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“It was exciting, for sure,” Greene said. “It’s going to be a memory I won’t ever forget. This was my first opportunity at a save, even though I’ve had two before. This was the first one in my own head. I knew I had to get five outs before they scored one run.”

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He did that, entering the game with one out in the eighth inning and promptly inducing a groundball double play. It was a “full-circle” moment of sorts, one that carried just the kind of adrenaline Greene has been known to thrive with.

“I love it, honestly,” he said. “When the game is on the line, it’s almost like borderline blackout and you just compete.”

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Greene saved the game, right-hander Anibal Sanchez won the game and John Hicks was the offensive star, providing the biggest punch with a three-run home run off veteran lefty CC Sabathia in the top of the second inning.

He saw 10 pitches from left-hander Sabathia, fouling six of them off, and popped the final pitch over the short rightfield wall for a home run that nearly held up as the deciding hit.

“He threw me some tough pitches that I was able to get a piece of,” Hicks said. “Then he left a back-door slider over the plate and I just got it in the air. I didn’t think it was going to go out, but it carries well here.”

The deciding hit turned out to be Justin Upton’s 18th home run of the season, a loft shot into the leftfield seats an inning later. Sanchez did his part to make sure it stood, shaking off a struggle in his last outing by throwing 6 2/3 solid innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked one.

Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez pitches in the first inning against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 1, 2017 in the Bronx. (Photo: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

Sanchez’s only blemish came in the fourth inning, which began with a Gary Sanchez double to leftfield. Then, Didi Gregorious pulled a pitch inside the rightfield foul pole for a two-run home run. It was smooth sailing from there until the seventh inning, when he allowed a two-out single and was relieved.

Bruce Rondon relieved Sanchez and threw tantalizing good stuff, hitting 100 m.p.h. on the stadium radar gun and inducing a groundout to second from Clint Frazier to end the seventh inning.

The Yankees came within a run when Alex Wilson and Daniel Stumpf allowed back-to-back singles in the eighth inning; Upton misplayed the first single in leftfield and was charged with an error and Gregorious smacked Stumpf’s first offering for an RBI single.

In came Greene. He recorded two outs on an inning-ending double play – “That obviously helped,” manager Brad Ausmus said — and set down his former team after two outs and two men reached, when Frazier popped out to shortstop Dixon Machado in shallow leftfield.

“I was excited for the opportunity and to do it here, for me, it’s a little bit extra special,” Greene said. “Full circle.”

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Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech.

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