Yankees pitcher Nova reacts after getting the Tigers out to end fifth inning of Game 1 of their MLB American League Division Series baseball playoffs at Yankee Stadium in New York

Nova impresses, Cano mashes as Yankees capture 9-3 Game 1 win over Tigers

26 Comments

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova opened a whole lot of eyes during the regular season while registering a 3.70 ERA across 165 1/3 innings. On a wet and cold Saturday night in New York, he opened many more.

Making his first-ever postseason appearance, the 24-year-old Dominican hurled 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, striking out five and scattering four hits as the Yankees rolled to a two-night 9-3 victory.

But the Yankees did more than pitch well in the resumption of Game 1 of the ALDS — with Tigers ace Justin Verlander watching helplessly from the visitor’s dugout. They hit. And hit. And kept on hitting.

Robinson Cano hit a grand slam in the sixth inning off the Tigers’ Al Alburquerque, who allowed only three of 31 inherited runners to score during the regular season. It was the 50th grand slam in postseason history.

Derek Jeter had two hits and three runs scored, and Brett Gardner drove in two runs while scoring one of his own. Every member of the Yankees’ starting lineup recorded a hit, expect for Alex Rodriguez.

Game 2 is set for Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET. Freddy Garcia will face off against Max Scherzer.

Notes

* The rain ceased by the time the suspended game got back underway, but it was pouring in The Bronx for most of Saturday afternoon and evening, leaving the Yankee Stadium playing surface a bit moist.

* Nova displayed no fear in the early going, hurling his slider with confidence on an impressive strikeout of Miguel Cabrera in the top of the fourth inning. That confidence remained high throughout.

* Tigers “starter” Doug Fister showed some jitters in his first couple frames, at one point committing an awkward-looking balk. He eventually settled in and began operating quickly, but the Yanks’ lineup can be relentless. The young right-hander retired 11 batters in a row between the second and fifth innings, then just three of his last 10 batters. He departed with the bases loaded.

* Tigers catcher Alex Avila was gunned down at the plate in the fifth inning by a smooth relay from Curtis Granderson and Jeter. Russell Martin laid the tag. The game was tied 1-1 at that point.

* Cano nearly had a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, but a replay review clearly showed that the ball bounced off the top of the wall and back into play. He was correctly awarded an RBI double.

* Cano’s grand slam in the sixth did not require a review. It was destroyed. A no-doubter.

* Nick Swisher struck out with a man on second in the sixth inning and is now 0-for-28 with runners in scoring position during his postseason career. He entered the night with a .162/.302/.314 career playoffs slash line.

* Yankees fans loudly chanted “MVP” every time Granderson stepped to the plate. He went 1-for-3.

* The Tigers rallied for four hits and two runs in the ninth before the Yanks turned to Mariano Rivera.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
6 Comments

Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
2 Comments

Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.