Tagged: Gerry Davis

Ellsbury’s Speed Allows Yankees To Freeze Tigers

GAME 16

YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1

With Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel and scoring at a premium the result on Thursday was decided by the quick feet of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury used his speed to force Sanchez into a costly balk and he later hustled a base hit into a double that led to scoring the game-winning run as New York took three of four games against Detroit on another bone-chilling 38-degree afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Tigers took advantage of some early command issues that plagued Tanaka to score a run in the first inning.

Anthony Gose led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on Ian Kinsler’s ground out. After Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Gose was able to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Victor Martinez.

That run stood up most of the day as Tanaka and Sanchez matched each other for the rest of the afternoon.

After Cabrera’s walk, Tanaka retired 18 of the next 19 batters he faced, striking out six. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.

Meanwhile, Sanchez entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. But he was able to keep the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, yielding only a two-out double to Chris Young while striking out five.

Ellsbury opened the sixth by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a infield groundout. Then with two out and Brian McCann up, Ellsbury bluffed his way down the third-base line and forced Sanchez to lose contact with the rubber on his first delivery.

Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made no call as McCann and the Yankees bench protested loudly. Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis then called the balk and Ellsbury scored the tying run for the Yankees without the benefit of a hit.

Unfortunately, the late call did not please Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he was ejected from the game by Davis.

Tanaka continued his mastery of the Tigers until J.D. Martinez laced another double with one out in the seventh inning and Yoenis Cespedes the drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Tanaka’s day.

Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire pinch-hitter James McCann on a sensational diving stop by Chase Headley at third, who barely beat Cespedes with his throw to second on a fielder’s choice while preventing Martinez from scoring the tie-breaking run.

Right-hander Dellin Betances then came on to get Nick Castellanos on a foul popup to end the threat.

Ellsbury opened the eighth inning against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) with a sinking liner in left-center and he slid into second just ahead the throw from Gose. Gardner advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt and, after Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, McCann hit a hard grounder that trickled off Cabrera’s glove before Kinsler retrieved it throw out McCann at first base.

However, Cabrera’s inability to field it cleanly allowed Ellsbury to score what turned out to be the decisive run.

Betances (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth to get credit for the victory and Andrew Miller came in to hurl a perfect ninth, striking out Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to earn his sixth save in as many chances.

Tanaka was charged with one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings while Sanchez surrendered one run on one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

After losing their first two series at home and one on the road, the Yankees have now won two straight road series. They also cooled off the Tigers and have now won six of their past seven games to improve their record to 9-7. The Tigers fell to 11-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Between Sanchez’s pitching, the cold weather and the fact manager Joe Girardi held Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup to rest them, it was obvious the Yankees would have to be resourceful to score runs. Ellsbury provided it. He was 1-for-2 with his hustle double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored the Yankees two runs. This was Ellsbury at his very best as a leadoff hitter.
  • The Tigers may have a scary offense and some good starting pitching but their bullpen is definitely their Achilles’ heel. It let them down again and lost the game for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless throughout the series. Betances was especially impressive on Thursday. He has shaken off a bad spring training and has his velocity back, having registered as high as 97 miles-per-hour on his fastball on Thursday. In his past five outings since April 15, Betances has yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out nine batters in six innings.
  • Headley was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out three times but his value in this game was huge. Not only did Headley save a run with his diving stop of McCann’s ground ball in the seventh, he also robbed Victor Martinez of a base hit with one out in the ninth. The Yankees may have gotten off to shaky start in the field but they have committed only one error in their past eight games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This is not so much a negative as it is a complaint. Girardi opted to rest both Teixeira and Rodriguez, who have combined to hit nine home runs and drive in 24 runs. I understand the reason is they are older players but the Tigers used Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Cespedes after they played the night before. The Yankees had Beltran batting third and McCann in the cleanup spot. On top of that, Teixeira entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and played first base for the final two innings. My point is that if Teixeira was going to be used anyway why not start him? Girardi got away with it because Ellsbury bailed him out. But the Yankees can’t be shocked they had only three hits in the game when they basically entered the game with one hand tied behind their back by their own manager. Rest Rodriguez or rest Teixeira but not both them, Joe. Come on!

BOMBER BANTER

The Tigers entered the four-game series 10-2 and they had scored 68 runs in those 12 games. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed them only nine runs in the four games. Here is the most amazing part of it, though. The bullpen only allowed one run in the entire series. “I give our pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through the weather and keeping a really good offense down,” Teixeira told reporters. “We didn’t score a ton of runs except for last night, but we scored enough runs to win, and that’s because pitching and defense was really good this series.”

ON DECK

The Yankees ended their first road trip 7-3 and now the return home to open Round 1 of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday giving up three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Mets will counter with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93 ERA), who has not surrendered a run in his past 18 1/3 innings. He shut out the Miami Marlins on Sunday on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

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

 

Some Hypocrisy Exists In Pineda Pine-Tar Incident

GAME 21

RED SOX 5, YANKEES 1

What is about the Yankees and pine-tar incidents? But, to be even more to the point, does anyone see the hypocrisy within the two?

Michael Pineda (2-2) was ejected on Wednesday in the bottom of the second inning by home-plate umpire Gerry Davis for having a foreign substance, Davis said it was pine tar, on his neck. New York, trailing 2-0 at the time, went on to lose to John Lackey (3-2) and Boston in front of a national television audience and a paid crowd of 37,015 at Fenway Park.

The most famous pine-tar incident in Yankee history dates back to July 24, 1983 when George Brett of the Kansas City Royals connected for a two-run home run off Rich “Goose” Gossage with two outs in the ninth inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

Manager Billy Martin correctly pointed out to home-plate umpire Tim McClelland that Brett’s bat had pine tar within 17 inches from the top in violation of baseball’s rules. McClelland agreed and called Brett out, which set the stage of the famous scene where Brett stormed out of the dugout to confront the umpiring crew and he even bumped into a few.

I have been harboring this question since 1983 but why wasn’t Brett ejected and fined for that outburst? Odd.

Anyway, American League president Lee MacPhail sided with the Royals and their protest of the game and he made the teams play out the bottom of the ninth inning with the Royals ahead 5-4.

He basically was saying that the rule was correctly applied but that pine tar did not have any effect in helping Brett hit the home run.

Now some 31 years later, every baseball manager and pitcher will tell you that pine tar has no effect in a pitcher’s ability to throw a baseball. It simply provides an opportunity for a pitcher to gain a better grip on the ball. So if we are to invoke the “MacPhail Doctrine” to this case than Major League Baseball should reinstate Pineda from his ejection and order the Yankees and Red Sox to resume that game from that point he was ejected, right?

Nope!

There is a definite double standard at play here.

I am not saying that Pineda was not naive to believe that the pine tar was not visible. But we have to accept his reasoning that after throwing a number of pitches out of the strike zone on a cold and windy night (gusts up into the mid-30s) that he was afraid he might hit somebody and injure them.

If pine tar made Pineda’s slider dive like a majestic eagle and made hitters look like Little League bench players, than I would be on the side of the ejection and the 10-game suspension he was handed. But, absent that, I think we should just replay that game as McPhail would have ordered if he were still in charge.

Red Sox manager John Farrell has now been put into a very dicey situation. The reason is that two of his pitchers, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, are widely known around the league for using pine tar when they are pitching. Buchholz was caught in a very widely publicized incident last season dipping his fingers to his left arm to get a better grip on the baseball.

The Yankees will be ready and waiting to have the umpires undress those pitchers down their jock straps should they suspect they are doing the same thing. So you may want to be careful and that phrase you reap what you sow comes to mind.

Of course, cheating and the Red Sox are pretty much synonymous. They just get better P.R.

David Ortiz was caught doing steroids but he is the Red Sox model held up to the kids in the community. He claimed that some doctor in the Dominican Republic gave him a shot and he did not know what it was. Huh?

Does anyone but me think it is extremely odd that in 2003 Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and outfielder Trot Nixon hit their career highs in home runs? Varitek hit 25 and Nixon hit 28. In 2004, baseball instituted a new drug testing procedure and Nixon never hit more than 13 home runs in a season after that. Varitek’s power “faded’ suddenly also.

Sports Illustrated actually ran a story indicating that it was well known that both Varitek and Nixon were doing steroids but they were never named in any investigation or listed as failing any drug test.

But the only real reason they were not caught was they were fortunate that nobody in the clubhouse that witnessed it came forward to snitch on them.

So the Red Sox maintain this huge halo around them that seems to suggest that none of their players ever would consider cheating to gain an advantage on the field.

Now that they have fired the first salvo in 2014 at Pineda and the Yankees we will just see where that halo ends up by the end of this season. I am not really sure it will remain so high above their heads.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win their second series against the Red Sox on Thursday.

CC Sabathia (2-2, 5.19 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees coming off his best outing of the season. Sabathia held the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs (one earned) in seven innings to even his record on Thursday. He lost his start to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 11 after blanking them over the first five innings.

Left-hander Felix Doubront (1-2, 5.48 ERA) will throw for the Red Sox. Doubront allowed two runs on five hits and two walks and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings but did not get a decision against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Stewart’s 3 RBIs Boost CC To Win Over Twins

GAME 11

YANKEES 8, TWINS 3

It is not easy replacing a popular player, particularly when he is really loved by Yankee fans. But Chris Stewart may have taken his first big step on Tuesday in helping those fans get over the absence of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.

Stewart stroked a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs that gave the Yankees the lead as part of a four-run third inning as New York’s sputtering offense came alive to support the solid pitching of CC Sabathia and New York defeated Minnesota at Yankee Stadium.

Stewart was claimed off waivers from the Giants on the final day of spring training by the Yankees and, because Stewart was out of options, the team opted to send Cervelli to Triple-A.

Trailing 3-1 entering the third inning, Andruw Jones started what proved to be the winning rally with a one-out single off Francisco Liriano (0-2). Curtis Granderson followed with a single down the right-field line that was bobbled by outfielder Trevor Plouffe and both runners moved up a base. Eduardo Nunez then slapped a ball in the hole at shortstop that Jamey Carroll could only knock down and Jones scored.

Liriano then issued his fourth walk in 2 1/3 innings to Brett Gardner to load the bases and Stewart chased the left-hander from the game with a lined single down the left-field line that scored Granderson and Nunez.

Derek Jeter capped the four-run eruption with a sacrifice fly reliever Mark Maloney to score Gardner.

Much like he had in his first two starts, Sabathia (1-0) struggled early in the game, giving up a solo home run to Josh Willingham in the second inning. With one out in the third, he gave up a single to Alexi Casilla, committed a balk to put him at second, pinch-hitter Clete Thomas then doubled to drive in Casilla and Carroll followed with a RBI single to score Thomas.

But after that point, Sabathia turned into the CC that Yankee fans are used to seeing. He retired the next 13 batters in a row until he walked Plouffe with two outs in the seventh. He did not allow another hit and left after giving up just the three runs on four hits and one walk and he struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings.

It was only the Yankees’ third quality start for their pitchers in the first 11 games.

Liriano, meanwhile, has now turned in three horrible starts in a row. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits and four walks and struck out two batters in only 2 1/3 innings. Liriano has now surrendered 17 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings over three starts. His ERA is now a stratospheric 11.91.

With the victory the Yankees are 6-5 on the season. The Twins are 3-8.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Mark it down that the first official Sabathia sighting was in the fourth inning of tonight’s game with the Twins. Sabathia settled in once he got the lead and shut down the Twins through the eighth inning. After throwing 59 pitches in the first three innings, Sabathia made it to one out in the eighth needing only 52 more (33 of them were strikes). Sabathia is habitually a slow starter who hits his stride in the summer months.
  • Last night the top part of the order carried the offense, going 8-for-16 but the team scored only three runs – all in the first inning. Tonight it was the bottom of the order that carried the team. Jones (batting fifth),  Granderson (batting sixth), Nunez (batting seventh), Gardner (batting eighth) and Stewart (batting ninth) were a combined 9-for-19 (.474) with three walks, they scored all eight of the Yankees’ runs and drove in six.
  • Gardner is very quietly have a very good season at the plate. He was 2-for-2 with an RBI double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored three runs. Gardner is hitting .321 early in the season and he is looking like he does not want to be taken out of the lineup against left-handers. Gardner also made a great diving catch off the bat Willingham to end the Twins’ two-run rally in the third inning.
  • Stewart is a career .203 major-league hitter with only 13 RBIs. On Tuesday, he was 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Stewart added an RBI single in the seventh off reliever Jeff Gray to his two-run single in the third that proved to be the game-winner. Realistically the Yankees only want Stewart to shine as a defensive catcher and they do not care what he hits. But I am sure they appreciated his effort at the plate.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is pretty safe to say that the Yankees are looking from big things from Alex Rodriguez after he missed 63 games last season and he is coming off a very good spring. Well, the Yankees are still waiting because he was 0-for-4 on Tuesday and it dropped his average to .227. with one home run and two RBIs.
  • A-Rod was batting fourth and the Yankees are still the only team in baseball who have not gotten an RBI from their cleanup hitter this season. Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have shared that spot this season. Cano was 1-for-5 in the game and is hitting .239 with no home runs and one RBI.
  • Hopefully the Yankees will only see the Sabathia who pitched so well after the third inning. Early in the game, Sabathia was having problems with fastball command, as he had in first two starts. With the effort Sabathia won his first game and lowered his ERA to 5.59. Needless to say, there is a lot of room for improvement in that ERA.

BOMBER BANTER

Home-plate umpire Greg Gibson was a busy man on Tuesday. He not only ejected Twins center-fielder Denard Span for arguing a strike call in the third inning, Gibson also gave the heave-ho to manager Ron Gardnehire right after Span. From the replays, it appeared that Span had a legitimate complaint. Sabathia’s first pitch looked well of the plate inside. But the Twins should not be too upset because they benefitted from the very odd strike zone of Gerry Davis on Monday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the third game of the four-game home series with the Twins on Wednesday.

The Yankees will send 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.63 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda is coming off eight scoreless innings in his Yankee Stadium debut against the Angels last Friday. Kuroda only gave up five hits, walking two and striking out six. He has never faced the Twins.

The Angels will counter with right-hander Jason Marquis, who will be making his 2012 debut after making two rehab starts at Double-A New Britain. Marquis missed two weeks of spring training after his 7-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a bicycle accident. Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

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.

 

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.