Results tagged ‘ Jhonny Peralta ’

Ellsbury Shines As Yankees Clip Cardinals’ Wings

GAME 52

YANKEES 7, CARDINALS 4

Since May 3, Jacoby Ellsbury has been struggling at the plate. So much so that his season average dipped from .346 to .259 entering Wednesday’s contest. By the time the game was over Ellsbury seemed back on track.

Ellsbury was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, two stolen bases and two runs scored to lead a seven-run, 12-hit attack to help Hiroki Kuroda and New York take a three-game series over St. Louis in front of a paid crowd of 45,267 at Busch Stadium.

The Yankees scored four runs in the third and three in the fourth against right-hander Shelby Miller and Ellsbury had a hand in both rallies.

With one out in the third, Brett Gardner drew a walk and Brian Roberts followed with a single up the middle. Ellsbury then scored Gardner with the game’s first run with a single to right-center as Roberts hustled into third.

Ellsbury stole second without a throw from catcher Yadier Molina and Brian McCann walked on four pitches to load the bases because Miller was pitching around him to face rookie catcher John Ryan Murphy.

But Murphy spoiled the strategy by delivering a single to center to score both Roberts and Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki capped the scoring by beating out a potential double-play grounder to score McCann.

With two out in the fourth and Kelly Johnson on first base after a single, Roberts doubled into left-center and Ellsbury scored both of them with a lined single to center. Ellsbury then stole second, again without a throw from Molina, and McCann followed with a single to right to score Ellsbury, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead.

Miller (6-4) was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits and two walks with one strikeout in five innings.

Kuroda (4-3), who has spent most of major-league career as a pitcher who has received very little run support, suddenly has an abundance of runs provided by his teammates.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals took advantage of Kuroda’s desire to limit walks and keep his pitch count down by teeing off on Kuroda’s fastball.

The Cardinals managed to score single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth and they chased Kuroda from the game in the sixth when Matt Carpenter laced an RBI double off the wall to score pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta from first with two out.

Kuroda yielded three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees bullpen quartet of Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson were knocked around a bit, giving up four hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. In fact, after Warren was chased by a two-out double by Carpenter, Kolten Wong greeted Robertson with an RBI single, his fourth hit in five at-bats on the night.

But Robertson ended the eighth by striking out Matt Holliday looking.

Then in the ninth, Robertson was touched by a leadoff single by Allen Craig and he walked Molina to bring up the potential tying run.

But Robertson ended the night with a flourish by striking out in succession John Jay, pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 28-24. They are in second place in the American League East, three games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Cardinals fell to 29-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury’s night also included an impressive sliding catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of Craig in the second inning. Ellsbury is an extremely talented player who was responsible for carrying the team through the first month of the season. He now has at least one hit in four of his past five games and is 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and seven RBIs in that span.
  • Murphy was 1-for-5 in the game but that single drove in two big runs with the bases loaded in the third inning. It raised a few eyebrows when manager Joe Girardi had him batting fifth in the lineup. But the 22-year-old rookie is batting .357 with a home run and eight RBIs in limited playing time behind McCann.
  • Give Roberts credit for doing well in the second spot in the order replacing a resting Derek Jeter. Roberts was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk and two runs scored. Roberts also extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 7-for-19 (.368) in that span. He has raised his season average to .248.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It was hard to judge whether the Cardinals were knocking Kuroda around or if he was losing his competitive edge because he had such a big lead. Kuroda is 4-3 and he has not lost a start since May 1. But his ERA is hovering now at 4.57 and his highest ERA since he came to the United States was in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 when it was 3.73. The Yankees need him to pitch better.
  • The Yankees had a chance to extend their lead in the eighth when they loaded the bases on right-hander Sean Maness. But left-hander Randy Choate struck out Gardner and Roberts smacked a 3-0 pitch to Carpenter at third and ended up in an inning-ending double play. The Yankees have to stop coming up empty in bases loaded and no out situations.
  • Robertson looked a little shaky in yielding two hits and a walk but he made up for it with recording all four of his outs on strikeouts. The Yankees know that comparing Robertson to Mariano Rivera is not fair but it is inevitable. The fact that Robertson has one blown save in 12 tries and a 2.20 ERA in 16 appearances is pretty darn good.

BOMBER BANTER

It is amazing that the Yankees got seven runs out of their offense with Mark Teixeira nursing a sore right wrist, Jeter sitting out to rest and slumping Alfonso Soriano and Yangervis Solarte held out of the lineup. McCann even started his first professional game at first base. But it all worked. Solarte was benched after hitting just .152 since his nine-game hitting streak was stopped on May 15. So Johnson moved to third, which opened first base for McCann.  . . .  Teixeira will have his right wrist examined on Thursday by Dr. Keith Raskin, who performed Teixeira’s surgery to repair the torn sheath in the wrist in the offseason. Teixeira will also have precautionary ultrasound. However, the Yankees are saying the stiffness and soreness are normal after this type of surgery and Teixeira is expected to be back in the lineup soon.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have Thursday off and they return home to begin a three-game weekend series against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-1, 5.49 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off what was his best start of season on Saturday. Nuno gave up three runs in the first inning to the Chicago White Sox but did not give up another run in the following six innings. Nuno walked one and struck out five.

Veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-5, 6.12) will get the nod for the Twins. Nolasco has lost his past two starts and was shelled by the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. Nolasco was tagged for seven runs on nine hits and a walk in  4 2/3 innings.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Roberts, Yankees Score 3 In 12th To Shuffle Cards

GAME 50

YANKEES 6, CARDINALS 4 (12 INNINGS)

The New York Yankees seem to have a penchant lately for ending up playing in extra-inning games and they are starting to figure out the way to win them, too.

Brian Roberts laced a bases-loaded RBI single with one-out in the 12th inning to break a 3-3 tie and the Yankees went on to add two more runs as New York won its third extra-inning game within the past six days by downing St. Louis in front of a paid Memorial Day crowd of 47,311 at Busch Stadium.

Heading into the 12th inning, the Yankees had managed just one hit since the fifth. But they managed to load the bases on left-hander Randy Choate.

Jacoby Ellsbury started it by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Choate then hit Brian McCann with a pitch and Yangervis Solarte advanced them a base with a sacrifice bunt.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny then chose to have Choate walk Ichiro Suzuki intentionally to load the bases and Roberts made Matheny pay for the strategy by slapping an 0-1 pitch into left-field to score Ellsbury.

Pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano, facing right-hander Jason Motte, then lifted a sacrifice fly to right to score McCann and Brendan Ryan followed with an RBI single to left to score Suzuki.

Despite being victimized by an RBI double off the bat of John Jay to score Jhonny Peralta with an unearned run in the bottom of the 12th, David Robertson closed out the game to earn his 11th save of the season.

Alfredo Aceves (1-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the Yankees to earn his first victory since he returned to the team this season.

Choate (0-2), who originally came up in the Yankees’ organization, was charged with the loss.

The Yankees actually held a 3-1 lead after scoring two runs off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha in the fifth after Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and Roberts followed with a single.

Kelly Johnson, who was starting in place of an injured Mark Teixeira at first base, then rolled a single up the middle to score Suzuki. One out later, Bret Gardner scored Roberts with a sacrifice fly.

The Yankees scored the first run of the game in the first off Wacha when Gardner walked, Derek Jeter singled and Ellsbury scored Gardner with an RBI single.

Wacha was charged with three runs on four hits and two walks and two strikeouts in seven innings.

The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the first off right-hander Chase Whitley when Matt Carpenter opened with a triple off the wall in right and Kolten Wong followed with an RBI double to right.

Whitley settled in and pitched extremely well until the sixth when Matt Holliday hit a double off the top of the wall in left. Matt Adams advanced Holliday to third with a single and Whitley loaded the bases by hitting Yadier Molina with a pitch.

Reliever Preston Claiborne came on and gave up a RBI groundout to Allen Craig that scored Holliday and a sacrifice fly to Peralta that scored Adams to tie the game at 3-3.

Whitley yielded three runs on eight hits, he struck out two and did not walk a batter in five-plus innings.

The game remained 3-3 until the Yankees were able to score three in the 12th, although Molina came within inches of winning the game off Aceves in the bottom of the 11th when he sent Gardner to the wall in left. But Gardner leaped and grabbed the ball off the top of the wall to rob Molina of a potential home run.

The game was delayed in starting by a one hour and one minute rain delay.

With the victory, the Yankees’ third in a row, the team’s record improved to 27-23. They remain in second place in the American League East just 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Cardinals are now 28-23.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • When manager Joe Girardi said in spring training that Roberts would be the team’s every day second baseman this season a lot of eyebrows were raised because of Roberts’ long history of injuries. But give the 36-year-old veteran credit for playing well for the Yankees so far. Roberts was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored to extend his modest hit streak to three games. Roberts is 4-for-10 (.400) with a home run, two RBIs and four runs scored in that span. His season average is up to .241.
  • Once again the bullpen turned in another stellar performance after Whitley left in the sixth. Claiborne, Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances, Aceves and Robertson held the Cardinals to an unearned run on two hits, no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings of work. Betances retired all six batters he faced and fanned two. The bullpen has been the strongest part of the team all season.
  • Despite giving up the lead in the sixth inning, Whitley, 24, turned in another very good outing. In his three starts (all of them won by the Yankees), Whitley has yielded four runs on 16 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 14 innings. That is an ERA of 2.57 and a WHIP (Walks-and-Hits-to-Innings-Pitched) ratio of 1.22. With CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda on the disabled list, Whitley is providing quality starts and giving the Yankees a chance to win those games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

With Whitley’s good work, the bullpen’s great effort and the offense waiting for the perfect chance to win the game, you can’t really criticize anything. Oh, the offense could have been better but the Cardinals do have an excellent pitching staff. The Yankees are going to have to earn victories against them. They did in this game.

BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira was scratched from the lineup on Monday with stiffness in his surgically repaired wrist. He began feeling the stiffness after the Yankees’ extra-inning victory in Chicago on Saturday and he told Girardi about it on Monday morning. No tests have been scheduled and Girardi said Teixeira is day-to-day. Johnson started at first base in place of Teixiera, who is hitting . 248 with nine homers and 25 RBIs, and was 1-for-4 with an RBI.  . . .  Outfielder Carlos Beltran took 15 swings from both sides of the plate with a fungo bat at Yankee Stadium on Monday and reported no issues with his right elbow. Beltran is has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 13 with a bone spur in the elbow and he is hoping to avoid having surgery to remove it. Beltran will take some more swings with a regular bat on Tuesday and he could progress to taking batting practice off soft tosses on Thursday.  . . .  Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and the Cardinals honored Jeter in a pre-game ceremony in which Jeter was presented cuff links with the likeness of Cardinals legend Stan Musial and a check for $10,000 for Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Cardinals on Tuesday.

Hometown boy David Phelps (1-1, 3.18 ERA) will pitch in St. Louis for the first time as a major-league player. Phelps grew up in the area and attended high school there before attending Notre Dame. Phelps, 26, is coming off a hard-luck loss to Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Phelps gave up just two runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned eight in seven innings. But he lost the game 3-2.

Right-hander Lance Lynn (5-2, 3.60 ERA) will start for the Cards. Lynn yielded two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out six in six innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday. But he did not get a decision in a game the Cardinals later won.

Game-time will be 8:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MY9.

 

‘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.

 

Hughes Goes Route To Declaw Motor City Kittys

GAME 53

YANKEES 5, TIGERS 1

With Justin Verlander pitching for Detroit on Sunday it was no real surprise that there could be a complete game thrown. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it was his New York opponent, Phil Hughes, who went nine innings to give the Yankees a hard-earned victory.

Hughes (5-5) gave up just one run on four hits and three walks and he struck out eight batters as the Yankees took the weekend series from the Tigers at Comerica Park and completed their nine-game road trip with a 5-4 record.

It was only the second complete game in 81 career starts for Hughes and the first nine-inning complete game of his career . His first complete game victory in 2011 was a rain-shortened six-inning contest.

Verlander (5-4), by contrast, was in trouble from the first pitch of the game. Derek Jeter swatted a first-pitch fastball into the right-field bleachers to give Hughes and the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

The Yankees tacked on a second run in the inning after an unusually wild Verlander walked both Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez and a passed ball moved them up to second and third base, respectively. With one out, Mark Teixeira lifted a fly ball to center-field that scored Granderson.

The Yankees kept the pressure on Verlander and, in the third inning, Alex Rodriguez blasted a one-out solo home run that traveled 450 feet into the wall of retired numbers in the left-center bleachers. It was his ninth home run of the season and the 638th of his career.

Hughes made his only real mistake in the bottom of the fourth inning by thowing Prince Fielder a first-pitch curveball to begin the inning. Fielder launched the hanger deep into the right-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season.

But Hughes shut down the Tigers’ offense the rest of the way on just two hits and one walk over the final six innings. Despite giving up seven runs on a career-high 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Angels in his last start, Hughes is on a stretch where he has won four of his last six starts and he has a 3.60 ERA in that span.

Verlander, however, was touched for two more runs in the fifth when Robinson Cano followed Granderson’s one-out double with a two-out triple and he scored on an error by Danny Worth, whose throw to try to get Cano sliding into third bounced into the dirt and slipped past Verlander into the Tigers’ dugout.

The Yankees chased Verlander in the seventh and he ended up surrendering five runs (three earned) on nine hits and four walks and he struck out four in 6 1/3 innings.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 29-24. The struggling Tigers are 25-29.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • This was, by far, Hughes’ best outing of the season and it came at a great time. Despite his last start against the Angels, Hughes is beginning to flash the form that he showed in 2010, when he was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA. Besides the home run to Fielder, Hughes only gave up two singles to Jhonny Peralta, who entered the game with an average over .400 against Hughes in his career, and a two-out ninth inning single to Delmon Young. Hughes entered the game having pitched 15 straight scoreless innings at Comerica Park. He now has only given up on run in his last 24 innings there.
  • Jeter’s home run was the 27th leadoff home run of his career and it was his first homer since May 5 against the Royals in Kansas City. Jeter was 2-for-5 in the game and raised his season’s average to .336. He leads the American League with 73 hits.
  • Rodriguez’s home run was his second in the series and he has four in his last 10 games. Six of his home runs this season have been solo shots. Rodriguez is hitting a woeful .170 with runners in scoring position and an even worse .111 with the bases loaded this season. With the bases empty, Rodriguez is hitting .346.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite the victory, the Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Cano fanned in the first inning with runners on second and third and no out. The Yankees had two on and one out in the second inning but Jeter bounced into an inning-ending double play. Russell Martin lined into an inning-ending double play two two and one out in the fourth. Cano bounced out to first with two on and one out in the seventh. And, after a leadoff double by Martin in the ninth, Jeter, Granderson and Rodriguez were retired in order without getting a ball out of the infield.
  • Outfielder Raul Ibanez was 0-for-4 in the game and he was 0-for-9 in the series. He has not gotten a hit in his last 10 at-bats and his batting average has fallen to .252.

ON DECK

The Yankees are heading back to Yankee Stadium and will have Monday off. They will begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (2-2, 3.49 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Pettitte gave up five runs on nine hits and struck out three in seven innings in a loss against the Angels in his last start. He is 15-5 with a 4.32 ERA against the Rays since 2002.

The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields (6-3, 3.95 ERA), who was roughed up in his last stat. He gave up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits and a walk to the White Sox. Shields is 5-12 with a 4.39 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Grandy’s Granny Boosts CC, Yankees Past Tigers

GAME 51

YANKEES 9, TIGERS 4

In the play “Richard The Third” King Richard says “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”

In the second inning, Yankees manager Joseph Elliott Girardi (The First) must have been beseeching his charges with the refrain, “A hit, a hit, my stewardship for a hit.” After all, the Yankees have been like a barren desert when it comes to hits with the bases loaded this season.

Thankfully, Curtis Granderson must have heeded the calling and delivered a grand slam home run that staked the Yankees to a 5-1 lead they never relinquished as CC Sabathia and his New York teammates vanquished Detroit in a contest Friday at Comerica Park.

Sabathia (7-2) wobbled in the first (he gave up a run) and third innings (he gave up two runs) and threw 71 pitches in the first three innings. However, he shut out the Tigers on just two hits over the final four innings to record his sixth quality start in his last seven outings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees preyed upon 23-year-old Casey Crosby in his major-league debut. Crosby opened the second inning by walking three of the first four batters he faced. After Chris Stewart was unable to get his fly ball to left deep enough to score a run (My stewardship for a hit), Derek Jeter stepped to the plate with two out.

Crosby missed with a 3-2 pitch and Jeter drove in a run to tie the game at 1-1. (I’ll take the walk but my stewardship for a hit.)

Granderson, who struck out looking on three pitches in his first at-bat, lashed out at a 1-1 fastball and hit into the seats in deep right-field for his 17th home run of the season. (King, uh, manager Girardi’s prayers were finally answered.)

But once Sabathia found his footing with the game at 5-3 after three innings, the Yankees managed to tack on a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Stewart, which chased Crosby, a run in the eighth on a two-out double by Andruw Jones and two runs in the ninth on Alex Rodriguez’s eighth home run of the season.

Crosby (0-1) became the third pitcher who has made his debut against the Yankees this season and the third who has gone down to defeat. He was touched for six runs on four hits and four walks and struck out three in 3 1/3 innings.

Sabathia gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks and he struck out five in seven innings. Rafael Soriano came in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out and induced Miguel Cabrera to hit into a game-ending double play to earn his seventh save in as many tries.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 28-23. The Tigers fell to 24-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Granderson is beginning to get hot with the longball again. He now has homered in three of his last four games. In that span he is 6-for-19 (.316) with three home runs and eight RBIs. His 17 home runs leads the team and he is tied with Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion for the second most home runs in the American League this season.
  • Sabathia was not sharp but he somehow found a way to win his team-leading seventh game. The key point of the game was after he gave up two runs in the the second inning, Sabathia loaded the bases with two out by walking Gerald Laird. He ended up striking out Brennan Boesch swinging to end the threat.
  • Jeter was 2-for-4 along with his RBI walk in the second inning and he extended his modest hitting streak to six games. In that span, Jeter is 9-for-26 (.346). His .340 season average is fourth in the A.L.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The normally very reliable bullpen was not that good on Friday. Cody Eppley faced one batter (Cabrera) in the eighth inning and gave up a double. Boone Logan faced two batters and gave up an infield single to Delmon Young that advanced Cabrera to third. Cory Wade then came in and gave up a sac fly to pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta. Clay Rapada opened the ninth with a 9-4 lead and ended up leaving in favor of Soriano with the bases loaded and one out after walking two batters and giving up a hit.
  • Prior to Rodriguez’s two-run home run in the ninth, he was 0-for-4 in the game with three strikeouts. Crosby fanned him twice, once looking, and Brayan Villarreal blew a fastball past him in the eighth inning. Rodriguez is struggling with just eight home runs and 21 RBIs on the season despite the fact he is hitting .280.
  • Though he walked and scored in the second inning, Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth. In his last four games, Cano is just 2-for-18 (.111) with seven strikeouts. His season average has dipped to .286.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend series with the Tigers on Saturday.

The Yankees will start 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (4-6, 3.96 ERA), who is coming off a sterling eight innings of shutout baseball against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. Kuroda held the A’s to only four hits to win his first road contest of the season. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA against the Tigers in his career.

The Tigers will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.21 ERA). Porcello threw a quality start against the Twins on Sunday but ended up with a no-decision. He is 2-2 with a 5.56 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

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.

 

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.