When the Yankees played the Tigers in the 2006 ALDS, Jim Leyland referred to the power-laden Bronx Bombers as Murders’ Row and Robbie Cano. In game one of the 2011 ALDS, Cano demonstrated what many have known for some time. The Yankees’ second baseman is no longer a supporting member of the lineup. He has become the heart and soul.
Joe Girardi’s decision to elevate Cano to the three-hole came just before the start of the playoffs, but it only took one game for the move to pay immediate dividends. In his third at bat of the game (and second of the evening), the Yankees’ second baseman broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth by driving a Doug Fister fastball off the very top of the wall for an RBI double. The play, which was reviewed but upheld, was reminiscent of Todd Zeile’s two-base hit in game one of the 2000 World Series, but unlike Timo Perez, Curtis Granderson never stopped running. Of course, if Jeffrey Maier had been in the stands, Cano would have been circling the bases too.
One inning later, after Brett Gardner singled home two runs, Cano struck again, this time belting a grand slam deep into the right field second deck off reliever Al Alburquerque. The bases clearing homer was Cano’s sixth of the year, but only the eleventh in Yankees’ postseason history. The second baseman further added his name to the record book by driving in another run with a double in the eighth inning, giving him a franchise high six RBIs in one postseason game.
Most RBIs by a Yankee in One Postseason Game
The reason Cano had a chance to break the game open was because Ivan Nova kept the Tigers off the scoreboard until the ninth inning. Although he was technically making a relief appearance, Nova became the defacto third Yankees’ rookie to start a postseason series opener and showed little signs of being overwhelmed by the experience. The Yankees have seen a sharper Nova, but he still limited the Tigers to only two hits until taking a hard hit grounder off his backside in the ninth. Detroit wound up scoring two runs in the final frame, but it did little to detract from Nova’s strong outing.
Before the Yankees broke out with the bats, Nova also got some help from his defense. With runners on first and second in the top of the fifth, Jhonny Peralta lined a single to center, but Alex Avila was gunned down by a great relay from Jeter, who, as often seems to be the case during the postseason, found himself in the perfect position to handle Curtis Granderson’s throw from centerfield. Jeter’s toss to Russell Martin allowed the Yankees’ catcher to apply a swipe tag and turned aside the one real threat the Tigers had during the game.
Youngest Yankees’ Pitchers to Start a Post Season Opener
|Waite Hoyt||24.031||1923||WS||NYG||L 4-5||2 1/3||4||32|
|Jim Beattie||24.091||1978||ALCS||KCR||W 7-1||5 1/3||1||58|
|Andy Pettitte||24.116||1996||ALCS||BAL||W 5-4||7||4||47|
|Andy Pettitte||24.127||1996||WS||ATL||L 1-12||2 1/3||7||17|
|Doyle Alexander||26.042||1976||WS||CIN||L 1-5||6||5||33|
|C.-Ming Wang||26.186||2006||ALDS||DET||W 8-4||6 2/3||3||49|
|Don Gullett||26.272||1977||ALCS||KCR||L 2-7||2||4||30|
|Don Gullett||26.278||1977||WS||LAD||W 4-3||8 1/3||3||61|
|Whitey Ford||26.342||1955||WS||BRO||W 6-5||8||3||46|
|Spec Shea||26.363||1947||WS||BRO||W 5-3||5||1||60|
Note: Underline indicates rookie.
After all the rain, and all the runs, the Yankees still needed Mariano Rivera to slam the door on the Tigers’ rally in the ninth. Summoning the great closer might have been overkill, but it was also an appropriate way to end another Yankees’ postseason victory. With three dynamite cutters, Rivera struck out Betemit and sent the crowd home happy one day after they departed the Stadium soaking wet. I guess good things do come to those who wait. It also doesn’t hurt to have Robinson Cano.