Results tagged ‘ Alex Avila ’

Pineda Dazzles In Debut As Yankees Edge Tigers

GAME 10

YANKEES 3, TIGERS 2

TAMPA – On a chilly and windy Friday evening the New York Yankees received a huge boost to their starting rotation but their eventual victory came from an ill-timed flinch by a Tigers relief pitcher.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Zelous Wheeler scored from third on a balk committed by Luis Marte as new York defeated Detroit in an exhibition game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Wheeler slapped a sharp single to left and Francisco Cervelli advanced him to third on a single to center.

Jim Miller (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the victory. Marte (0-1) took a very embarrassing loss.

But the star of the evening was 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who threw two dominant scoreless innings in relief and struck out four of the seven batters he faced after not pitching in a major-league game in two years.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Derek Jeter stroked a two-out single off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez. Carlos Beltran followed with a titanic blast to right that nearly cleared the right-field bleachers.

The Yankees held that lead until Yankees left-hander Matt Thornton entered the game in the seventh inning.

With one out, Alex Avila singled and Austin Jackson laced a triple to the wall in right-center. Steve Lombardozzi then scored Jackson with the tying run on a looping single into right.

The Yankees boosted their Grapefruit League record to 6-4. The Tigers fell to 5-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was clear from the beginning of spring training that if Pineda was healthy he WOULD be the team’s No. 5 starter. Judging by his first effort after recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum Pineda has the job. Pineda entered the game in the fifth inning and gave up one hit, walked none and threw an amazing 22 of his 27 pithes for strikes. Among the batters he fanned were Jackson, Rajai Davis and Miguel Cabrera. If Pineda pitches anything near what he did in 20011 when he was an American League All-Star with the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees’ American League East rivals will be cringing.
  • Hiroki Kuroda started for the Yankees and pitched a very workmanlike 2 1/3 innings. He yielded a hit and a walk while he fanned five in a 51-pitch outing. The Yankees’ top four starters (Kuroda, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova) have surrendered just three earned runs in their first 16 innings of the spring for a tidy 1.13 ERA.
  • Beltran, who was the designated hitter for the Yankees on Friday, has only two hits in 13 at-bats this spring. However, both of those hits have been home runs. In the first 2 2/3 innings Sanchez had held the Yankees to two hits and he had not walked a batter while he struck out four.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The biggest loss the Yankees suffered during the winter really was not Robinson Cano. It was left-hander Boone Logan, who signed a three-year contract with the Colorado Rockies after four consistent seasons with the Yankees. Thornton, 37, is Logan’s replacement and he was disappointing in what his first extended outing this spring. After retiring Victor Martinez in the seventh, Thornton was tagged for four consecutive hits, coughing up the 2-0 lead before getting the last two outs with runners on second and third.
  • Alfonso Soriano looked a bit better on Friday but is still 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in his first two games. It looks as if the flu that sidelined him for the first two weeks of the spring has set him way behind the other hitters. But he still has plenty of time tune up for the regular season.

BOMBER BANTER

Carmen Berra, the wife of Yankee legend Yogi Berra, died on Friday from complications from a stroke that she suffered earlier this year. She was 85. A moment of silence was observed in honor prior to the game.

ON DECK

The Yankees travel to face a Houston Astros split squad on Saturday at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL.

Nova will get the start for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira is scheduled to start his second game of the spring while Brett Gardner, Kelly Johnson and Cervelli will join him on the trip.

The Astros will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Jarred Cosart, who was 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts with the Astros in 2013.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live by the MLB Network.

 

 

A.L. King Tigers Use Prince’s Power To Slay Yanks

GAME 4

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 3

In adventure tales you can usually bank on a heroic prince coming to the rescue just when he is needed. That pretty much sums up what happened for the Tigers in their 2013 home opener at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday.

Prince Fielder blasted a pair of home runs  –  a three-run shot in the fifth that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and a mammoth two-run blast in the seventh that put the game away  –  as Detroit picked up right where they left off in the American League Championship Series by drubbing New York in front of a paid crowd of 45,051.

Despite the fact that Tigers right-hander Doug Fister (1-0) was touched for three runs in the top of the fifth, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Kevin Youkilis that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, he was rescued by Fielder’s bat to get credit for the victory.

Fister gave up three runs on six hits, two walks, hit two batters and struck out two in five innings. Left-hander Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings of relief to earn a save.

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs on five hits and two walks and struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings. But the bullpen did him no favors because Boone Logan gave up Fielder’s home run in the fifth and Shawn Kelley was tagged by his home run in the seventh.

The Yankees’ early-season record is now 1-3. The Tigers are 2-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Youkilis blasted his first home run as a Yankee in the fifth inning after Fister had given up a one-out single to Robinson Cano that advanced Bret Gardner to third. While pitching to Youkilis, Fister uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to score and the Yankees halved the Tigers’ lead to 2-1. Then Youkilis connected on 3-1 fastball and he deposited the ball into the Tiger bullpen in left-center to give the Yankees a short-lived 3-2 lead.
  • David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and need only needed four pitches to record three outs. He was the only Yankee hurler on the day who did not give up a hit or a run.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova shocked reporters after the game by saying he did not believe he pitched that poorly. Though he did keep the team in the game, Nova was hardly effective. He was in three-ball counts to nine of the 21 batters he faced and threw 96 pitches with only 53 being strikes (55 percent). Nova will be on a short leash if he continues to struggle like this.
  • Logan was brought in to the game specifically to face Fielder with two on and two out in the fifth and Fielder swatted his second pitch just over the wall in right to allow the Tigers to reclaim the lead. In a perfect world the Yankees would have a second left-hander because Logan is not a lefty specialist but the Yankees elected to release side-winding left-hander Clay Rapada.
  • Kelley, 29, not only gave up the two-run blast by Fielder that still might be orbiting Earth, but he also gave up a long solo blast to Alex Avila in the sixth. Kelley was selected by the Yankees over veteran David Aardsma because he is capable of pitching multiple innings. I guess the Yankees’ brain trust did not realize he also is capable of surrendering multiple homers in multiple innings.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees injury list grew on Friday when Eduardo Nunez was forced to leave the game in the fourth inning after being struck by a pitch from Fister. Nunez thought that he might have a broken his right arm but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep and he is listed as day-to-day. Jayson Nix took over for Nunez at shortstop and was 0-for-2.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in the Motor City on Saturday.

Originally, the Yankees were scheduled to start David Phelps. But the Yankees decided they will activate right-hander Phil Hughes from the 15-day disabled list and he will make the start instead. Hughes was sidelined during all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

The Tigers will send right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound. Scherzer was 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 2012. he is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

‘Eric The Red-Hot’ Slays Tigers With Mighty Blast

GAME 111

YANKEES 4, TIGERS 3

The New York Yankees might have arrived in Detroit to face a red-hot Tigers team but the Tigers certainly did not count on having to face an equally red-hot Eric Chavez.

Chavez, who entered the game hitting .538 in the series, followed Mark Teixeira’s game-tying home run with one out in the eighth inning off Joaquin Benoit with a game-winning solo blast of his own as New York turned what was a 3-2 deficit into a victory that tied the four-game series with Detroit.

There was no one happier about the result than manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Tigers took the lead 3-2 on a controversial call by third-base umpire Tim Welke.

Clay Rapada (3-0) retired the two batters he faced in relief of starter Hiroki Kuroda in the seventh inning to earn the victory. Rafael Soriano got the final out of the eighth and had to complete a Houdini act in the ninth to escape a jam with runners at first and third with no outs to record his 27th save.

For the Tigers, the game was bitter disappointment but for the Yankees its was blessed vindication.

Kuroda and the Yankees were sailing in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead on the strength of a two-out RBI double by Raul Ibanez and an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki off Tigers starter Doug Fister in the second inning.

However, Jhonny Peralta led off the frame with a double to the wall in center-field and Alex Avila followed it by smacking a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right-field to tie up the game. Later that same inning, with two out and Quintin Berry on first, Andy Dirks lofted an opposite-field dying quail down the left-field line that landed on the chalk and rolled into foul territory.

As the ball hit the grass, Welke clearly raised both arms to indicate the ball was foul. But he then reversed the call and pointed the ball was fair with his right arm. Ibanez running into foul territory from left-field then allowed the ball to get past him for a double and Berry scored the tie-breaking run.

Girardi immediately disputed Welke’s call, claiming the original call affected Ibanez’s play on the ball and allowed a run to score. Girardi wanted lodge a formal protest of the game but was told by crew chief Bob Davidson that a protest could not be made on a judgment call. Welke later ejected Girardi and Girardi left the field at Comerica Park raising both arms and pointing right and then left to mock Welke’s incorrect call to the delight of the crowd.

The game remained 3-2 until Benoit was summoned to pitch the eighth for the Tigers.

With one out, Benoit fell behind in the count to Teixeira 2-0 and his next pitch came right down the middle. Teixeira launched it so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it landing just over the wall along the right-field line for his 21st home run of the season.

Before the Tigers fans among the 40,490 in attendance had a chance to restart their hearts, Chavez broke them by connecting on Benoit’s next offering with a lined shot to the opposite field in left for his 12th home run of the season and his second of the series.

Of the last 12 hits Benoit (1 -3) has given up this season, 10 have been home runs.

The Yankees then turned the game over to the bullpen. David Phelps pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and Soriano ended the eighth by surviving a long blast to right by Peralta that Suzuki chased down in right.

In the ninth, Avila opened the frame with a carbon-copy of Dirks’ dying quail double in the fifth. Welke clearly signaled this ball fair and Ibanez had no trouble picking it up. Gerald Laird was sent in to pinch-run for Avila.

Omar Infante then lined the next pitch for a single to right to advance Laird to third.

But Soriano retired Ramon Santiago on a soft line drive to Robinson Cano at second, Berry popped up weakly to Derek Jeter in shallow left and Dirks finally managed to run out of magic fairy dust and flied out to shallow center to end the contest.

The Yankees’ victory, combined with a loss by the Baltimore Orioles, extended the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 5 1/2 games. Their record is now 65-46. The Tigers fell to 60-52.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • As I wrote yesterday, Alex who? Chavez has done more than made up for the loss of Alex Rodriguez in the lineup with both his bat and Gold Glove. Chavez finished the series 9-for-16 (.563) with two home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and five RBIs. Ironically, Girardi was going rest Chavez on Thursday but Chavez convinced Girardi he was fine to play. So Chavez was inserted into the lineup. Smart move, Joe.
  • Teixeira’s home run was his first since July 28 against the Red Sox. After going 0-for-4 in the series opener, Teixeira was 5-for-12 (.417) and drove in three runs in the next three games. Teixeira leads the team in RBIs with 75 and he is third on the team in home runs behind Cano and Granderson.
  • After having his 12-game hitting streak stopped by the Justin Verlander in the opener, Suzuki was 4-for-12 (.333), including two hits on Thursday, and he drove in four runs in the last three games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Girardi switched Nick Swisher and Granderson in the batting order on Wednesday and it worked out great. Swisher reached base in five of six at-bats and Granderson was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. It did not work so well on Thursday. They combined to go 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. They were the only two Yankees starters who did not get a hit.
  • Girardi elected to use Swisher as the designated hitter, which moved Suzuki from left-field to right and Ibanez was inserted into left. It’s too bad because there is a good chance Suzuki would have been able to play Dirks’ double without it getting past him. But Girardi does have to rest his veterans sometimes. It just seems the ball finds the replacements too often.
  • Jeter singled to lead off the fifth inning and was started with a 3-2 count on Swisher. But Swisher fanned and Jeter stopped between first and second and was tagged out trying to get back to first. The Yankees had a boatload of runners caught stealing in this series.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take their balls and bats and head to Toronto to open a weekend series with the reeling Blue Jays.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia (5-5, 5.00 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees.Garcia allowed two runs over five innings on Sunday in a victory over the Seattle Mariners. He is 7-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 18 career starts against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Ricky Romero (8-8, 5.47 ERA). Romero surrendered just one run on three hits and four walks in seven innings on Sunday in a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics. Romero is 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Roll Early, Hang On Late To Tame Tigers

GAME 110

YANKEES 12, TIGERS 8

Sometimes a victory can be as majestic and beautiful as a priceless painting and sometimes they can look like a 5-year-old child’s refrigerator drawing. The New York Yankees victory on Wednesday at Comerica Park looked more like the latter to manager Joe Girardi but he will cherish it all the same.

Fueled by a home run and four RBIs from Curtis Granderson and with CC Sabathia on a the mound nursing a 7-0 cushion, New York ended up having to fight their rear ends off in the final three innings to gain a huge win over Detroit.

Sabathia (12-3) was coasting with a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning when the Tigers pushed across two runs on a one-out single by Jeff Baker. After the Yankees added a run in the top of the seventh on an Ichiro Suzuki infield single, the Tigers then used a fielding error by third baseman Casey McGehee in the seventh to score another run on a Prince Fielder groundout to pull within 8-4 when Sabathia was removed in favor of David Robertson.

Robertson then suffered through one of those “House of Horrors” moments coming in with two out and a runner on second base.

A Delmon Young grounder that was headed to Robinson Cano for what could have been the final out was cut off by first baseman Mark Teixeira and it rolled off his glove for a infield single. Pinch-hitter Andy Dirks was fooled so badly on a 1-1 pitch he swung late and rolled a single just inside the third base bag and into left to drive in a run.

Robertson then had Brennan Boesch in a 2-2 hole when he swung at a pitch off the plate and bounced it slowly to McGehee for a single that scored another run. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila then rolled another ball past third to bring the Tigers to within a run at 8-7 before Robertson retired Ramon Santiago to end the rally.

Because of the four-run frame, Sabathia was charged with five runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk while he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings. Robertson, though none of the four singles he gave up would have broken a pane of glass, was charged with three runs on five hits in one inning of relief.

The Yankees, however, had just about enough of the Tigers in the eighth and they jumped on former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke for a pair of one-out runs on a Teixeira RBI single and an RBI groundout off the bat of Eric Chavez, who is 7-for-12 (.583) in the series.

They added another pair of runs with two out in the ninth off Bryan Villarreal on a balk with Jayson Nix on third and an RBI single off the bat of Cano. Those two runs pretty much declawed the Tigers before the bottom of the inning as Rafael Soriano retired the side in order, striking out two, to give the Yankees the victory.

Granderson, who was dropped to the No. 6 spot in the batting order after going 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series, slapped a two-out RBI single as part of a two-run first inning and he added a three-run home run in the third off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6-9).

Sanchez and a vengeful Tigers manager Jim Leyland paid the price for their anger dearly in that third inning after Sanchez had hit Teixeira with a pitch in the first inning and Sabathia reciprocated by hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch in the bottom of the stanza.

With one out in the third Sanchez plunked Cano in the backside in what clearly was a purpose pitch. Home-plate umpire Tim Welke warned both benches against any further incidents. But Leyland may want to reconsider that strategy now since it worked to the detriment of his team.

Cano stole second and, one out later, Chavez drew a walk to set the stage for the former Tiger, Granderson. He launched a weak fluttering 0-1 change-up from Sanchez deep into the seats in right to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.

The Yankees finally chased Sanchez in the fourth after an RBI single by Nick Swisher and Teixeira made it 7-0 on a sacrifice fly off reliever Duane Below.

Sanchez, who entered the game with a 3.99 ERA, was charged with seven runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out two in three-plus innings.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 64-46 and they remain 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Tigers fell to 60-51 and their 10-game home winning streak is, like Sanchez, history.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Granderson has pretty much been a vexing problem this season. He goes into stretches where he swings at every off-speed pitch in the dirt and a foot outside. Then there are times he goes 3-for-5, including a double and a home run, he scores two runs and drives in four. Granderson has 30 home runs and 66 RBIs this season but he is hitting .244 and has struck out 136 times, the third most in the majors behind Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.
  • Chavez is making the most of his increased playing time in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. Since July 30, Chavez is 12-for-26 (.462) with three home runs and eight RBIs. On the season, Chavez is now hitting .284 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Alex who?
  • Girardi might have panicked a bit by pulling Sabathia in the seventh in favor of Roberrson. Sabathia actually was pitching pretty well at that point and he had thrown only 94 pitches. But because the Yankees have struggled this month, Girardi made the move to Roberrtson and what happened to him was borderline unfair. But Sabathia has his 12th victory and he earned it.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Girardi decided to use six-time Gold Glove winner Chavez as the designated hitter to “rest” him and the manager found out McGehee is a butcher in the field with no range. He brought Nix in to play third in the eighth inning but, by that time, the Tigers had clawed back into the game at 8-7 because of McGehee’s substandard play at third. I guess Girardi has learned a valuable lesson.
  • Cano committed an error and Teixeira also misplayed a pair of grounders so the Yankee defense was somewhat lacking. With Chavez playing third, the Yankees have a combined total of 27 Gold Gloves including every member infield. They also were on a steak of 13 errorless games since July 24. However, they did not play that way on Wednesday.
  • For some reason, Girardi also turned his players loose on the base-paths and two of them got picked off. Swisher got the green light after one-out walk and was picked off by Below. Cano and Teixeira followed with singles but the Yankees did not score that inning. An inning later, Suzuki took off too early with one out and ended up be being picked off by rookie left-hander Darin Downs. Those things hurt.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete their four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.

Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday but ended up a 1-0 loser to Felix Hernandez. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in limited action against the Tigers in his career.

The Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister (6-7, 3.52 ERA). Fister threw a complete-game victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Tigers’ Wildness, Passed Ball Hand Win To Yanks

GAME 19

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 6

Sometimes you win games with clutch hits that are placed perfectly to score a run. Sometimes you win games with heroic catches to save games. Then there are times you just are patient enough to watch a young relief pitcher unravel in front of 41,200 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The latter happened to Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal – with some help from catcher Alex Avila – on Friday and it cost him and his team a victory against the Yankees on Friday.

Villarreal (0-1) uncorked a pitch in the 10th inning that hit off the glove of Avila for a passed ball and allowed Derek Jeter to score the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied to hand the Tigers their seventh loss in their last eight games.

The Yankees had just tied the game in the eighth inning off reliever Joaquin Benoit on a single by Alex Rodriguez, a single by Robinson Cano that advanced Rodriguez to third and a sac fly to deep center by Mark Teixeira.

Mariano Rivera (1-0) then needed only 11 pitches to retire the Tigers in order in the ninth to set the stage for the Yankees rally off the 24-year-old right-hander in the bottom of the inning.

After one out, Jeter drew a walk and he advanced to third on a Villarreal wild pitch on what was ball four to Curtis Granderson. Villarreal dug himself an even larger hole by throwing the first two pitches out of the strike zone to Rodriguez.

His third pitch also veered outside, hit off Avila’s glove and rolled to the wall behind home plate. Jeter started back to third initially but then raced home and knocked the ball out of Villarreal’s glove as he slid in safely with the winning run.

In what was thought would be a pitcher’s duel between reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova was anything but a duel as the game unfolded.

Nova surrendered six runs on 11 hits and three walks and struck out five in 5 /13 innings. However, because the Yankees rallied to tie the game after he left, Nova keeps alive his 15-game winning streak dating back to June 2011. He is just a game behind the team record set by Roger Clemens.

Verlander was victimized by a solo home run by Rodriguez in the fourth and a two-run blast by Russell Martin in the fifth. He ended up giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and struck out four in six innings.

Yankee Stadium remains the only A.L. park in which he has not won a game.

With the victory the Yankees improve to 11-8. The Tigers fall to 10-10.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was nice to see Rodriguez begin to swing the bat well for a change. He came into the contest hitting .221. But he was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in the game. He stroked an opposite-field single to drive in Granderson in the first inning to give the Yankees a short-lived 1-0 lead. In the fourth he hit career homer No. 633 to the bleachers in right-center to bring the Yankees to within a run at 3-2. He then just missed hitting a second home run to center off Verlander in the fifth that would have given the Yankees a 5-3 lead. He later started the eighth-inning rally with a leadoff single and scored the tying run.
  • It was also nice to see Martin hit a two-run homer off Verlander that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead after five innings. Martin is the only Yankee regular hitting under .200. He came into the game hitting .182 with one home run and four RBIs. With one swing he doubled his home run total and plated half of his previous RBI total.
  • The bullpen, once again, saved the Yankees in a huge way. After Nova left in the fifth, Cory Wade, David Robertson and Rivera combined to shut out the Tigers on a hit, a walk and struck out four over the final 3 1/3 innings. Shaky starting pitching continues to put the bullpen to the test and they keep doing the job.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova entered the top of the sixth with a 4-3 lead and promptly gave it right back to the Tigers. Jhonny Peralta opened the frame with a single to left and Ryan Raburn followed with a single to right-center. Austin Jackson, who was 4-for-5 on the night, then smacked a two-run double to the wall to score Peralta and Raburn. After one out, Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally and Boone Logan was summoned to retire Cecil Fielder. But Fielder slapped his second opposite-field RBi single to left and the Yankees fell into a 6-4 hole. Nova was very lucky the Yankees rallied to tie the game up and later won it.
  • I have said this before and it bears repeating: Raul Ibanez has no business playing the outfield at age 39. That became obvious in the second inning when Brad Eldred, who was just called up from Triple-A Toledo on Friday, followed a leadoff walk to Don Kelly with a pop fly to left that Ibanez played into a triple that scored Kelly and tie the game a 1-1. It is situations like this that make the Yankees appreciate the Gold Glove-quality defense they receive from Brett Gardner.
  • Logan was one member of the bullpen who did not enjoy a good night. He was called upon in the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, trailing the game 5-4. Logan had to face Fielder and Kelly, a pair of lefties. Fielder singled in a run and Logan walked Kelly on a 3-2 pitch. He exited the game without retiring either lefty.

COMMENTARY

Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning by home-plate umpire Joe West after Martin was rung up a 1-2 Octavio Dotel pitch that replays showed was clearly outside. Girardi was not upset the pitch was called a strike. What really upset him was that a number of similar outside corner pitches from the Yankees’ pitchers were NOT called strikes. This has been an ongoing problem with West throughout his entire career. Because he has been in the game so long, West believes in his heart that those fans in the stands who fork out $150 a ticket come to see him call balls and strikes. Should you even get the thought into your head about questioning his ever-changing strike zone, he runs you out of the game with a hair-trigger temper. But I loved what the gutless fat slob did after Girardi showed him that the third strike Martin took was in the left-handed batter’s box. While Girardi’s back was turned  and he was heading back to the dugout West said something. That is what cowards do when they know they are wrong. Thanks, Bud Selig, for giving us baseball fans the umpiring equivalent of Napoleon. Heck, Joe, try umpiring with your right hand tucked in your shirt. You stink! You need to retire now. The act, like you, is getting old.

BOMBER BANTER

The Tigers played the game without starting left fielder Delmon Young, who was arrested early Friday morning by New York City police for an alleged assault of man in front of a downtown hotel. He will be charged with aggravated harassment and it could be escalated to a hate crime, according to a police spokesman. Young remains in custody and he is awaiting arraignment. A detective told the Detroit Free Press that some “anti-Semetic remarks” were made during the incident. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle this considering they never punished Cabrera, their best player, for a pair of DUI charges.  . . .  Jeter had his 15-game hitting streak stopped on Friday. Though he was 0-for-4 starting the ninth, Jeter drew a walk and later scored the game-winning run. That is how good it has been going for Jeter. He helps win the game without getting a hit.  . . .  Andy Pettitte will make his next scheduled start for Double-A Trenton on Monday against the Portland Sea Dogs in Maine. Pettitte, 39, is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches. Pettitte is on track to return to the major leagues in mid-May.

ON DECK

The three-game series with the Tigers continues on Saturday.

For fans planning to attend the game, I suggest you arrive early enough to see Freddy Garcia start the game for the Yankees. You may not see him for long after that. Garcia (0-1, 9.75 ERA) has not pitched six innings in any of his previous three starts and only lasted 1 2/3 innings against Boston last Saturday. Fortunately, the Yankees rallied from a 9-0 deficit and beat up on Bosox 15-9.  He is 18-8 with a 3.88 ERA against the Tigers over the past 10 seasons.

The Tigers will counter with rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 1.13 ERA), who has allowed two runs or less in his first three starts. He held the Rangers to one run on five hits and two walks on Sunday but ended up with his third no-decision. He has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Yankees Strand 10 To Settle For Tie With Tigers

GAME 24

YANKEES 1, TIGERS 1 (10 INNINGS)

TAMPA – Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first inning with his first home run of the spring. Little did the Yankees know but that would be the only run they would score all day against the Tigers.

New York stranded 10 runners over 10 innings and had to settle for a tie with a Detroit split squad on Sunday in a Grapefruit League contest played at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda recorded one of his best outings of the spring, giving up one run on five hits and two walks in five innings of work. But the Yankees did not give him much in the way of support.

The Yankees collected only five hits but they got some help from six walks and two hit batters to put plenty of runners on base to take the lead in the game. But much like the Game 5 loss of the American League Division Series against the Tigers, the Yankees could not collect a big hit with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-10 with RISP in the game.

Meanwhile, relievers Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Roberston, Clay Rapada and Manny Delcarmen each turned in a scoreless inning of relief against the Tigers to keep the game knotted.

Jeter’s home run in the first came off Tigers left-hander and starter Duane Below.

The Tigers tied it in the third inning when Danny Worth drew a leadoff walk and Ramon Santiago delivered a one-out RBI triple.

The Yankees remain 13-9 with two ties this spring. They have not lost a game in their last 11 spring contests. The Tigers are 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In Jeter’s second game back after being shelved by a tight left calf, he delivered a home run to right and double to left-center. Jeter is quietly hitting .348 this spring and the best news is he is driving the ball with authority and not squeezing weak grounders through the infield. Those who might have written Jeter’s baseball obituary at age 37 might have been a bit premature.
  • Pineda struggled at times in keeping the Tigers off base but he only gave up the one run. After Santiago’s triple, he struck out the next two batters as part of stretch where Pineda fanned four of the last eight batters he retired. Pineda’s velocity also was consistently at 93 miles per hour during his outing.
  • Brett Gardner led an outfield that recorded three assists on Sunday that helped keep the Tigers from scoring more runs. With speedy Austin Jackson on second in the first inning, Alex Avila stroked a lined single to Gardner in left. Gardner charged the ball on the hop and gunned Jackson out at the plate with a perfect throw. In the eighth inning, new left-fielder Jayson Nix caught Brent Wyatt’s line drive and gunned down Dixon Machado after he failed to retouch second base on his way back to first. In the ninth, center-fielder Dewayne Wise caught a Ryan Strieby liner and doubled off Tony Plagman at second base.
  • Robertson returned to action for the first time since he bruised his right foot in an accident at his home on March 7 and he showed no ill effects from the injury. Robertson struck out a batter and he benefited from Machado’s poor base-running on Wyatt’s line drive to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Robertson said he felt good and he hopes to build upon it with his next outing.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Jeter’s good day there was one striking negative: In the fourth inning, Jeter rolled out to short with the bases loaded. He was a part of an offense that sputtered all day when they had chances to take the lead. In the fifth inning, right-hander Collin Balester walked three batters. But Curtis Granderson was nailed by Avila attempting to steal second and Russell Martin hit into a fielder’s choice after Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira drew two-out walks.
  • In the seventh, it was no better for the Yankees against Brayan Villarreal. Doug Bernier was hit by a pitch and stole second. Granderson then drew a walk. However, Robinson Cano hit into a double play. After Rodriguez was hit in the ribs with a pitch and left the game as a precaution, Teixeira grounded out to short to end that threat.
  • In the second inning, the Yankees had Texeira on third and Martin at second with one out. However, Eduardo Nunez struck out looking and Gardner bounced out to the pitcher and spoiled that effort. So it was obvious that there was a lot of frustration with the offense on Sunday.

BOMBER BANTER

Joba Chamberlain was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL., on Sunday four days after he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle in a trampoline accident. General manager Brian Cashman echoed manager Joe Girardi’s assessment that there was a possibility that Chamberlain could return to pitch this season. Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery last summer and was not expected back to the Yankees until June when the injury occurred last week. Chamberlain will wear a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks and then will be fitted for a weight-bearing walking boot.  . . .  Although Rodriguez left the game Sunday after being struck in the left ribs on a pitch from Villarreal, Girardi said he expects Rodriguez being able to play on Tuesday.  . . .  Girardi also said he hopes to get Nick Swisher back into the lineup on Tuesday. Swisher has only had two at-bats since he injured his left groin on March 14.  . . .  After the game on Sunday, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Pena to Triple-A Empire State and reassigned outfielders Colin Curtis and Cole Garner, catcher Jose Gil and pitchers Kevin Whelan and Delcarmen to minor-league camp.

ON DECK

The Yankees are enjoying their second off-day of the spring on Monday. They will return to action at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ace lefty CC Sabathia will make his fourth Grapefruit League start. The Blue Jays will start right-hander Kyle Drabek.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

This report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

A.J. Saves Yanks With Some ‘Grand’ Intervention

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 4

YANKEES 10, TIGERS 1

When the Detroit Tigers traded Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees in 2009 they never could have envisioned how badly the principal in that trade would come back to the Motor City to haunt them.

With the Tigers needing only one victory to advance to the ALCS in front of sellout crowd of 43,527 at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, Granderson made two spectacular highlight-reel catches and drove in a key run early to back the solid pitching of A.J. Burnett as the Yankees staved off elimination with a decisive thrashing of the Tigers.

For Burnett (1-0), the night was sweet redemption from past postseason failures and the travails of two very bad regular seasons. Burnett was not even scheduled to start in this series before rain forced a suspension of Game 1. Coming off a season in which he was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, Yankee fans had there hearts in their throats in the opening frame as Burnett, almost true to expected form, walked the bases loaded with two outs and Don Kelly heading to the dish.

After Burnett fell behind 1-0, Granderson’s grandiose evening in the city where he started his career began. Kelly laced a sharp line-drive that was heading right over Granderson’s head in centerfield. Granderson first took a step in and then retreated, spun his head around, extended his glove as high as he could and corralled the ball in the tip of the webbing of his glove to save three runs from scoring.

From that moment on Burnett was a different pitcher. Other than giving up a solo home run to Victor Martinez to lead off the fourth, Burnett was able to command the strike zone with his fastball and unleash his deadly curveball to keep the Tigers off balance.

Burnett gave up only four hits and, despite walking four batters, he struck out three in 5 2/3 innings. It was Burnett’s first postseason victory for the Yankees since his scintillating shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. The road from an anathema to a postseason savior has been a very long one for the 34-year-old right-hander.

Granderson’s catch also seemed to spark the offense, which was oddly dormant for the last two innings on Monday and the first two innings against Tigers starter Rick Porcello (0-1).

Pocello opened the third by hitting designated hitter Jorge Posada with an 0-1 pitch. Russell Martin followed with the Yankees’ first hit.

One out later, Derek Jeter laced a double over the head of Austin Jackson (who the Tigers acquired from the Yankees in the Granderson deal) off the base of the centerfield wall that scored Posada easily. But Martin had to slide to the extreme outside of the plate and reach back with his left hand to avoid the relay throw from Jhonny Peralta and the swipe tag of catcher Alex Avila.

After Martinez’s home run that sliced the lead to 2-1, the Yankees added to their margin in the fourth off Porcello.

Martin opened the frame with a another single. Instead of laying down a sacrifice bunt to move Martin, Gardner fooled the Tigers and sliced an opposite field single to left.

Jeter then botched a sacrifice bunt by hitting the ball right back to Porcello, who turned and forced Martin at third.

But Granderson bailed out Jeter and the Yankees by lacing a double off the wall in centerfield to score Gardner and advance Jeter to third. After Robinson Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases, Alex Rodriguez drove in his third run of the series without the benefit of a hit with a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Energized by a 4-1 lead, Burnett was able to keep the Tigers off the board and he was removed in the sixth inning after he gave up a two-out single to Kelly.

Rafael Soriano came in to relieve Burnett with Peralta strolling to the plate.

Peralta turned on Soriano’s first offering and lofted a high fly ball into the gap in left-center. That is when Granderson came back to take another giant bite out of the hand of the team that once fed him.

Granderson raced into left-center and laid out his body in a full dive and caught the ball again in the tip of the webbing in a play that easily outshone the multi-run-saving catch he made in the first inning. Tiger players and Tiger fans watched stunned as the centerfielder they once cheered and loved had come back to put a nice leather-laced dagger in their collective hearts.

While Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way, the Yankees’ offense unleashed a torrent of hits on the Tigers’ bullpen to ensure that any thoughts of a Tiger comeback was futile.

The Yankees ripped former teammate Phil Coke (who was also part of the Granderson trade), poor mistreated Al Alburquerque, Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry for six runs on seven hits as they sent 11 batters to the plate in a 35-minute eighth inning.

The Tigers did really get generous when Alburquerque balked in a run and Schlereth uncorked a wild pitch to allow another run to score.

Cano capped off the inning with a two-run single that pushed the margin to 10-1, marking the most runs the Yankees have scored in an ALDS game.

By that time, most of the Tiger faithful had abandoned their playoff seats and headed home, which is where they will have to watch the fate of their team in Game 5 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.

With Granderson’s support in the field and with his bat, the night truly belonged to Burnett, however.

Manager Joe Girardi said it best: “I was proud of what he did. In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year.”

 

Umpire Davis Did Cost Yankees In Game Three

 

If the Detroit Tigers do wrap up their ALDS best-of-five with the New York Yankees tonight and advance to the ALCS and win the World Series, they should cut a share of their victory money to umpire Gerry Davis.

Now I am not saying that Davis deliberately called Justin Verlander’s pitches strikes and CC Sabathia’s pitches balls because he was biased towards the Tigers.

I actually looked at the pitching chart provided by Brooks Baseball. It showed that Davis was not calling strikes on the left side the plate but he was giving some extra to the right side of the plate.

Now, stay with me now. I am going to try to explain this as clearly as possible.

Verlander is right-handed and he is pitching to a predominately left-handed hitting lineup in the Yankees. Davis’ generous right side of the plate benefitted Verlander greatly in being able to get called strike three on Nick Swisher in the fourth inning and Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner in the fifth. Not to mention the hitters on the Yankees knowing Davis’ skewed strike zone being forced to swing at pitches well off the plate.

Sabathia used the right side of the strike zone that Davis was calling to retire Alex Avila twice. Why was Avila significant? He was the only true left-handed hitter in Jim Leyland’s lineup.

Davis, however, was not so generous to the left side. Sabathia as left-handed pitcher was throwing to a predominantly right-hand hitting lineup. In order to stay away from the power strokes of Delmon Young, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Peralta, where is he likely to throw most his pitches?

Right, or in this case left. Sabathia would have to keep his pitches to the outer half on the left to right-handed hitters. That was the part of the strike zone Davis was not calling. That is why he tied a playoff high with six walks in 5 1/3 innings. That is why one of the best control pitchers in baseball looked like Daisuke Matzusaka on Monday night.

That is what increased his pitch count. That is why Sabathia had to come farther and farther over the plate to get pitches called strikes. That is why the Tigers began to tee off on him. They did not have to lunge wildly out of the strike zone to the left-hand hitters’ batters box. Nope, Sabathia had to groove them over the plate and they just sat back and waited for the cookies to come.

Verlander, meanwhile, was just loving that ball two inches outside that was getting strike calls all night. The Yankee lefties needed a bat the size of Sabathia to reach them but to Davis they were strikes and, by God, Verlander got them consistently all night from the fair-minded, impartial umpire.

Strike zones are part of the game. No doubt, pitchers are aware that individual umpires have a particular strike zone. If Sabthia were a rookie he could maybe say he did not know. So maybe he could have adjusted and thrown more inside early and then worked away.

But I think Sabathia was staying with the game plan and strategy the Yankees and their scouts laid out. That called for pitching them away. It cost him and the Yankees dearly. It also cost a national audience a fairer picture of the true picture of Sabathia and a more interesting duel against Verlander.

How do you explain to your kid that the TBS broadcast strike zone that showed Sabathia was throwing a strike was a ball? Or that a Verlander curve that was caught three inches outside the TBS pitch tracker was a strike? Hell, I couldn’t.

Sometimes fair is fair and sometimes it isn’t. But any way you look at it, Davis cost the Yankees a game. Fly him into Detroit for the World Series celebration in the clubhouse. Verlander can pour champagne over his head. Davis even can have a laugh when the bubbly misses him by inches to the right.

 

Gardner’s 2-Out, 2-Run Single Foils Fister’s Plan

GAME 1: KEY MOMENT

When pitchers get into jams they have to think about how they are going to get out of them. Doug Fister of the Tigers was no different on Saturday as he pitched the sixth inning.

With the Yankees leading 2-1, Mark Teixeira had opened the frame with opposite-field double off the left-field wall. Fister’s job at that point was to retire Nick Swisher without allowing Teixiera to move up to third base.

Fister struck out Swisher looking on a two-seam fastball that hit the outside corner. One out. For Fister it was mission accomplished.

Pitching coach Jeff Jones then came to the mound to talk to Fister. With first base open, it would not be a bad idea to walk Posada and go after Russell Martin, who just so happened to lead the Yankees by hitting into 19 double plays this season. But Fister could try to induce Posada to hit a pitch out of the strike zone so he did not need to walk him intentionally.

Posada worked the count on Fister to 3-2. Fister then delivered a change-up to the outside corner and in the dirt. Posada hardly twitched and took first base.

“OK,” Fister must have said to himself, “I have Martin up and all I need is him to roll over on a two-seam fastball and I am out of this mess.”

Martin took the first two-seam fastball for a ball. But he did exactly what Fister wanted with the second two-seamer. He hit over it and it bounced to shortstop Jhonny Peralta. There was only one problem: Martin hit it so badly that it rolled slowly to Peralta and his only play was to throw to first to retire Martin.

Meanwhile, Teixeira reached third and Posada moved to second. But, Fister still feels it is OK.

“There are two outs and no runs have scored,” Fister thinks. “All I need to do is get the No. 9 hitter (Brett Gardner)”

Fister knows that Gardner is not a power hitter. He knows that Gardner has not hit well for Yankees of late. He also knows Gardner has struck 93 times this season, the fifth most on the Yankees.

Fister decides to go after Gardner aggressively, knowing if he walks him he brings up Derek Jeter with the bases loaded.

The 28-year-old right-hander uncoils and throws a four-seam fastball right at the top of the strike zone that home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo calls a strike. Fister then opts for a two-seamer away just in case Gardner swings. If Gardner swings it likely will be an infield grounder to third and he will be thrown out.

But Gardner holds the bat and watches the pitch fall right into catcher Alex Avila’s glove for called strike two.

Now Fister has not allowed a run, two are on but two are out and Gardner is in a big 0-2 hole. “This is great. Just one pitch and I am out of this and I will keep us in the game,” Fister thinks.

He gets the sign from Avila for a curveball. If it runs too high, it is just ball one. If it drops too low, same thing. If  Gardner does not swing and it drops over the plate, its strike three and the inning is over.

However, a funny thing happened to all of Fister’s plans and all of his thinking and calculations about escaping this inning unscathed.

He hung the curveball.

It gets worse, too.

Gardner recognized the pitch and swung. Ball met bat and ball rolled through the Yankee Stadium infield grass past Fister and to the right of second baseman Ryan Raburn and rolled slowly to centerfielder Austin Jackson. But by the time Jackson reached the ball and threw it back in, Teixeira touched home and Posada came trotting in after him.

The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1.

Fister stayed in the game and gave up a single to Jeter than moved Gardner to third. Curtis Granderson coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Fister was taken out of the game and replaced by Al Alburquerque with Robinson Cano coming up.

We all know how that worked out. Cano swings and the Yankees put up four more runs and go on to win the game 9-3.

But Gardner’s hit on a hanging 0-2 curve with two out and two on of Fister was the key play of Game 1.

 

Cano’s Slam, 6 RBIs Declaws Tigers In Game 1

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 1

YANKEES 9, TIGERS 3

When managers and coaches get together with their pitchers to discuss a game plan to how to attack the hitters on the New York Yankees they all say “Do not let Robinson Cano beat you.”

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, pitching coach Jeff Jones and the Tiger pitching staff got a close-up view on why they say that about Cano on Saturday night.

Cano absolutely crushed two doubles as well as a majestic grand slam homer and drove in a franchise-tying record of six RBIs in a postseason game to back the strong “relief” pitching of Ivan Nova as the Yankees took the fight out the Tigers for a Game 1 victory in their American League Division Series.

Nova (1-0), meanwhile, picked up for CC Sabathia in third inning and only allowed two hits and three walks before faltering in the ninth inning. The rookie 24-year-old right-hander came into the game having won 12 consecutive decisions and had not lost a game since June 3.

The Yankees and Tigers played to a 1-1 tie on Friday before the game was suspended after an hour and 17 minute rain delay.  So Game 1 resumed in the bottom of the second inning at Yankee Stadium with nary a drop of precipitation but a brisk was blowing in from right and the temperature dipped into the mid-50s.

However, the weather did not deter 50,940 fans from showing up to watch the completion of Game 1, the largest crowd to ever see a game at Yankee Stadium, old or new.

It was Cano and the Yankees who struck first off the Tigers’ right-hander Doug Fister, who in a sense was coming in relief of likely American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

With none on and two out in the fifth inning, Curtis Granderson singled to right field off Fister. Cano followed with a deep line-drive to left-center that either hit off the top of the wall, caromed off a fan and fell back onto the field for a home run or a double that hit the top of the wall and just spun back into play to score Granderson.

Crew chief Gerry Davis immediately took his umpires into the replay room off the third-base dugout and came out shortly signaling Cano had indeed hit a double. Although the Yankees had taken a 2-1 lead, Fister and the Tigers felt they were lucky to have just allowed a run in that situation.

However, luck turned into unmitigated disaster for Fister in the sixth inning.

Mark Teixeira greeted Fister with a first-pitch, opposite field double to left. One out later, Fister appeared content to pitch around Posada by walking him on a 3-2 pitch well out of the strike zone. Russell Martin then dribbled a slow grounder to Jhonny Peralta at short and Peralta’s only play was to first to retire Martin.

Fister then went after Brett Gardner to end the inning.

He immediately jumped ahead on the count 0-2. Fister then opted for a curve to finish Gardner off. But, instead, Fister hung the pitch and Gardner squirted a roller to the right of second baseman Ryan Raburn and on into centerfield to score Teixeira and Posada, giving the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

That proved to the key at-bat of the game because Derek Jeter followed with a single to right-center to advance Gardner to third. Jeter later stole second and Fister ended up losing Granderson by walking him to load the bases.

Leyland opted to make a move to the bullpen, where he had left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Al Alburquerque warming. Most managers in this situation would bring in the lefty to face the left-hand hitting Cano. But Leyland must have made a wrong turn at Alburqueque because he did the opposite.

On Alburquerque’s second offering, Cano uncoiled his familiar picture-perfect swing and connected solidly and decisively. Despite a brisk breeze blowing in from right, Cano’s drive cut through the wind to land in the second deck of the right-field bleachers. Suddenly, the Yankees’ slight 4-1 lead had turned into a decisive 8-1 margin.

Alburquerque had the entered the game coming off a season in which he was 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA. he had allowed only three inherited runners to score all season and he had not allowed a home run in the major leagues. Cano took care of all of that with just one beautiful swing.

But the big loser in this Alburquerque mess was Fister (0-1).

Despite pitching well early and escaping trouble, he was charged with six runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. He came into the game with an 8-1 record and 1.79 ERA since the Tigers acquired him from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline. He also had not allowed more than a run in his last 55 innings during the regular season. The Yankees ended string that with six runs in the sixth.

The Yankees added a run in the eighth off lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth. And as with all the runs the Yankees scored in this game, it came with two outs.

Jeter stroked a single and that same guy Cano laced a double over the head of Jackson in center for a double that scored Jeter easily. That gave Cano his sixth RBI of the night to tie him with Bobby Richardson, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui for the franchise record for RBIs in a postseason game.

Nova, meanwhile, was able to escape some trouble of his own with a little help from his defense.

After retiring the first seven batters he faced, Nova walked Alex Avila on a 3-2 pitch. Raburn followed with an opposite-field single to right. Peralta then laced a line-drive single that fell just in front of Granderson in center. Avila got a slow read on the ball and, as he headed for home, Jeter took the relay throw from Gramderson and fired home to Martin. Martin caught the ball in the right-hand hitters’ batters box just as Avila lunged into him.

Home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo called Avila out and the Yankees kept a big run for the Tigers off the board.

To open the sixth, Nova walked the only Tiger hitter with speed in Austin Jackson. Leyland figured it was time to send Jackson to second to get something started for the Tigers with then down 2-1. Jackson broke for second on a 1-2 pitch to Magglio Ordonez and Ordonez hit the ball right to Cano, who was covering second waiting for a throw to nab Jackson. Cano merely scooped the grounder, stepped on second, avoided Jackson’s slide and flipped to first to double up Ordonez.

Nick Swisher then laid out to catch a liner to right off the bat of Delmon Young to end the inning.

However, Nova was unable to escape the ninth.

With one out, Young lined a ball of Nova’s backside for an infield single. Miguel Cabrera coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Victor Martinez singled sharply to right to load the bases.

Manager Joe Girardi, hoping to avoid using Mariano Rivera, selected right-hander Luis Ayala instead. Ayala was coming off a rough outing against the Rays on Thursday in which Boone Logan and he had combined to give up six runs to the Rays in the eighth inning with the Yankees holding a 7-0 lead. That led to the Rays’ eventual 8-7 victory in 12 innings to allow the Rays to make the playoffs.

For Yankee fans it was almost deja vu all over again.

Ayala induced Avila to hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed a run to score. But he compounded the problem by giving up a single to left by Raburn that scored another run and Peralta followed with a bloop single to center reloaded the bases. Girardi mercifully pulled the plug on Ayala and Rivera was forced to come in as Ayala was showered with a chorus of Bronx jeers – well-earned, too.

Rivera came in to face former Yankee infielder Wilson Betemit. But if any Tiger fans had gone to the kitchen for a bag a chips, they would have missed Rivera blowing three pitches past Betemit for the final out to give the Yankees an important 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Verlander unable to pitch again until Game 3.

It is funny how in a regular season in which the Yankees were plagued by 22 rain delays and nine postponements that forced so many doubleheaders and lost off days and yet the rain that fell on Friday actually worked so greatly to the Yankees’ benefit on Saturday.

Rain, rain, don’t go away.

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