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


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.


* 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.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.