Yankees tame the Tigers

No national anthem, all Yankees. Robinson Cano hit a grand slam and drove in six runs, rookie Ivan Nova pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning in an unusual relief appearance and New York shook off a 23-hour rain delay to beat the Detroit Tigers 9-3 in their suspended playoff opener Saturday night.

New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin

New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin

Yankees 9 Tigers 3

NEW YORK — No national anthem, all Yankees.

Robinson Cano hit a grand slam and drove in six runs, rookie Ivan Nova pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning in an unusual relief appearance and New York shook off a 23-hour rain delay to beat the Detroit Tigers 9-3 in their suspended playoff opener Saturday night.

A day after rain wiped out aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia after only 1 1/2 innings, the game resumed in the bottom of the second with two new pitchers on the mound.

Cano barely missed a homer on his tiebreaking double in the fifth and New York broke it open with a six-run sixth against losing pitcher Doug Fister. Brett Gardner had a two-run single with two outs to make it 4-1 and, moments later, Cano connected off Al Alburquerque for his fourth grand slam since Aug. 11.

“I always say things happen for a reason,” Cano said. “We couldn’t play last night, but we played today and we ended up winning the game.”

Freddy Garcia starts for New York today in Game 2 of the best-of-five American League division series. Max Scherzer gets the ball for the Tigers, who will try to rebound the same way they did against the Yankees in 2006.

That year, Detroit dropped the series opener in New York before winning three straight to stun the heavily favoured Yankees in the first round. Game 2 of that playoff was postponed a day by rain. This time, it took two nights to finish the opener.

Along with Curtis Granderson, Cano is one of New York’s two leading contenders for AL MVP — and he showed why. Yankees manager Joe Girardi moved the slugger up from fifth to third in the lineup for the playoffs to get him more protection and pitches to hit.

Smart move so far.

Cano added a run-scoring double in the eighth to tie a club record for RBIs in a post-season game. His seventh career post-season homer was the 11th slam in Yankees post-season history and the first since Ricky Ledee connected in the 1999 AL championship series against Boston.

“I wasn’t looking for a home run, just looking for a pitch I can make good contact and at least get one RBI,” Cano said. “It ended up being a grand slam.”

Nova, who won his final 12 decisions during the regular season, picked up where Sabathia left off Friday and pitched shutout ball into the ninth before 50,940 fans, the largest crowd at the new Yankee Stadium.

After loading the bases, he was pulled by Girardi. Nova tipped his cap as the crowd gave him a standing ovation and pounded his chest when he got to the dugout.

Detroit scored twice against Luis Ayala and Girardi took no chances, bringing in Mariano Rivera. The career saves leader got a three-pitch strikeout in a non-save situation.

Fister, who went 8-1 with a 1.79 earned-run average after being acquired in a July 30 trade from Seattle, replaced Verlander. The right-hander retired 11 in a row before Granderson singled with two outs in the fifth.

Cano followed with a drive to left that hit the top of the fence as several fans in the front row backed away to avoid interfering. The ball caromed back to left-fielder Delmon Young and umpires ruled it in play as Granderson scored easily to give New York a 2-1 lead.

Girardi came out for a brief discussion and four umps went under the stands to take a look at the replay. After a four-minute delay, they came back out and upheld the call.

“Everyone in this row spoke about not reaching over and catching a ball,” said the closest fan, 37-year-old Chris Vitali from New Brunswick, N.J. “We said, ’Don’t do it. If it’s Detroit, fine. Catch it.’ … But, believe me, if it was a little bit further out, I would have dove over the top of the wall to catch it.”

The opener resumed after a delay of 23 hours 29 minutes. There was no national anthem and official scorer Jordan Sprechman announced Verlander’s pitching line, a day later, one batter into the game. The Bleacher Creatures gave Yankees starters a second roll call.

The only other suspended game in post-season history was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia, stopped after 5 1/2 innings because of rain and snow. Play picked up two days later, and the Phillies finished off Tampa Bay to win the title.

That bizarre scenario led Major League Baseball to adopt a rule in January 2009 ensuring that any post-season game halted after it begins will resume from the point of suspension rather than postponed and restarted another day.

The forecast was ominous for Saturday as well, and a steady drizzle cut short Detroit’s batting practice after only a few minutes as the grounds crew covered the field.

But the sky cleared up and the tarp came off 50 minutes before the first pitch. Play began on time and was never interrupted on a windy, 55-degree night. The first day of the month, and it certainly felt like October.

The suspension presented a bit of problem for Tigers manager Jim Leyland. He stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters against Sabathia, so that same group was in the game Saturday against Nova.

Detroit nearly went ahead in the fifth when catcher Alex Avila tried to score from second on Jhonny Peralta’s sharp single to centre. Granderson fired to shortstop Derek Jeter, who relayed to the plate from just behind second base. The throw was a little wide but in time for Russell Martin to apply a quick tag.

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