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

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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.

Braves clinch NL East title

Ender Inciarte
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So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.

The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.

With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.