The New York Yankees had CC Sabathia lined up to start Game 1 of their ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. 8½ innings later, they got to celebrate a big, easy win in front of their own home crowd. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?
Maybe not when you put it that way, I guess. Sabathia did technically start this game. But as you know, rain caused this game to be suspended for a day in the middle of the second inning, and it was Ivan Nova - not Sabathia - who turned in a sparkling performance as the Yankees cruised.
The game picked up Saturday with the Yankees coming to bat in the bottom of the second, and the score 1-1. Against Nova and the New York bullpen, the Tigers would not add to their total until garbage time in the ninth. Against Doug Fister and the Detroit bullpen, the Yankees would.
Not that they would for a while. In fact, in the top of the fifth, it looked like the Tigers might get out in front when Jhonny Peralta lined a single with Alex Avila on second. Avila, though, was gunned down at the plate when Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter combined for a perfect relay.
That play kept the score at 1-1, and the Yankees took the lead some minutes later. With two down and a runner on first, Robinson Cano took a Fister fastball deep to left-center, where the ball bounced off the top of the fence for an RBI double. It was reviewed by the umpires to see if it should go as a home run, but the on-field call was (properly) upheld.
Nova protected the one-run lead in the top of the sixth, and then in the bottom half, the door was blown open. It very nearly was not. The Yankees had two outs and two runners in scoring position, and Fister had an 0-and-2 count on Brett Gardner. But Gardner grounded the next pitch into right-center for a two-run single that provided critical insurance.
And the Yankees weren't finished. They subsequently loaded the bases, and Fister was replaced by power reliever Al Alburquerque - he of the obscene strikeout rate. Alburquerque tried to sneak a low-inside slider past Cano, but Cano turned on it and clobbered the ball out to right field for a grand slam. All of a sudden, the Yankees were up by seven runs, and the rest of the game was but a formality.
Cano drove in another run - his sixth - with a double in the eighth, and Nova nearly went the distance. He departed with the bases loaded, one out and the score still 9-1 in the top of the ninth, and though he got charged with two runs that Luis Ayala allowed to come in, the Tigers did not score for the 6⅓ innings that Nova stood on the mound. I'd say he did a fair job of relieving Sabathia in the end.
So now the Yankees and Tigers will prepare to play Game 2 Sunday afternoon, on what was originally scheduled as a day off. With Freddy Garcia opposing Max Scherzer, one's immediate response is that the Tigers have the edge on the mound, and they're going to need Scherzer to come up huge if they don't want to go home in a deep dark hole.