Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Scherzer pitches to the New York Yankees in Game 2 of their MLB American League Division Series baseball playoffs in New York

Max Scherzer dazzles as Tigers even ALDS with Yankees

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Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer had a very up-and-down regular season. When he was good, he was great. When he was bad, it often got ugly.

On Sunday afternoon in New York City, the 27-year-old couldn’t have been much better.

Scherzer issued two first-inning walks, but settled in soon after and held the Yankees’ star-studded lineup hitless until Game 1 standout Robinson Cano blooped a single to left field in the sixth inning.

Scherzer wound up throwing six scoreless frames, yielding only two hits and striking out five Yankees while hurling 61 of his 104 pitches for strikes. He was aided offensively by Magglio Ordonez, who went 3-for-3, and Miguel Cabrera, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBI. Victor Martinez also drove in a run.

Curtis Granderson put the Yankees on the board with an eighth-inning solo home run and Nick Swisher added a solo shot off Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the ninth. Then Jorge Posada tripled for the first time in 2011 and scored on an Andruw Jones sacrifice fly. But Valverde eventually got the job done for Detroit, and the Tigers tied the series with an exhilarating 5-3 Game 2 victory.

Notes

* Ordonez laced a one-out single in the top of the first inning, then Cabrera lined a two-run homer into the right field seats. It wasn’t a bad pitch, and Cabrera didn’t make especially great contact. You have to wonder how many home runs Cabrera would hit to that right field porch if he called Yankee Stadium home.

* Yankees starter Freddy Garcia retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced after Cabrera’s two-run blast, then got himself into trouble again in the sixth inning. He allowed six hits and four runs over 5 1/3 frames.

* Derek Jeter nearly led off the bottom of the first inning with an extra-base hit, but speedy Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson retreated quickly and snared the ball on the run just before the warning track.

* The sun was shining brightly at Yankee Stadium in the early innings, causing some problems for both team’s outfielders. But it was a welcome sight for a series that has already featured a 27-hour rain delay.

* Rain made another appearance in the bottom of the seventh inning, but only for a quick shower. It reappeared in the bottom of the ninth and was coming down hard as the Yankees attempted a comeback.

* Posada drew a tough walk in the fifth inning that seemed to throw Scherzer slightly off his rhythm. The Detroit right-hander hit the next better he faced (Yankees catcher Russell Martin) before getting out of the jam. The Yankees finally broke through with their first hit in the very next frame.

* Posada followed a leadoff walk by Nick Swisher with a single up the middle, driving Scherzer from the game in the seventh. But Joaquin Benoit came on in relief and retired three straight batters — fanning two.

* Cabrera caught the Yanks napping in the eighth inning and stole the first base of his postseason career.

* Alex Rodriguez finished 0-for-3 with a walk and is now 0-for-8 in the series. The boo birds came out.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.