Opener between Yanks, Tigers suspended

Posted Sept. 30, 2011, at 11:04 p.m.

NEW YORK — The playoff opener between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees was suspended because of rain in the second inning Friday night, probably wiping out the ace of each pitching staff for a few days.

Justin Verlander started for Detroit against CC Sabathia in a highly anticipated matchup between two of the game’s best pitchers. The score was tied at 1 in the middle of the second inning when play was halted.

According to a rule adopted by Major League Baseball two years ago, the game is not postponed. Instead, it will pick up Saturday night at the point of suspension — weather permitting — with the Yankees coming to bat in the second inning. The forecast calls for rain through late Saturday night.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said rookie Ivan Nova will start Saturday. He had been slated to go in Game 2, which was moved back to Sunday at 3:07 p.m., a scheduled day off in the best-of-five American League series.

Freddy Garcia will now get the ball in the second game instead of Game 3, Girardi said.

Doug Fister, the Tigers’ scheduled starter for Game 2, will pitch when Game 1 resumes.

Delmon Young homered for the Tigers and Alex Rodriguez had an RBI groundout, both in the first inning. All statistics from Friday night will count.

Verlander, who won the pitching version of the Triple Crown in the AL this season, threw 25 pitches in the first inning. Rain began falling with Mark Teixeira at the plate, the eighth batter of the game.

The downpour intensified in the top of the second as Sabathia worked a perfect inning with a pair of strikeouts. Fans at Yankee Stadium scampered up the aisles for cover on the concourse, and a shimmering pool of water formed in front of home plate. Tigers second baseman Ryan Raburn shook the raindrops off his helmet tried to dry his bat by wiping it under his arm.

After the inning, all six umpires huddled with a member of the Yankee Stadium grounds crew at the mound and then called for the tarp.

PLAYOFF NOTEBOOK: Doug Fister came to Detroit in a midseason trade with a 3-12 record. Ivan Nova was sent to the minors in July as the odd man out in the Yankees’ rotation.

Now, both are scheduled to start Game 2 of the teams’ first-round playoff series Saturday night.

“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions,” Fister said Friday at Yankee Stadium. “At the same time, it’s been something that I’m very grateful for. It’s something that’s taught me how to just kind of take things one step at a time. That’s the mindset I’m taking right now. Just kind of keep moving forward one step at a time. Things will take care of themselves.”

Fister arrived from Seattle with a deceptive record. He made 21 starts for the underperforming Mariners, had the lowest run support among AL pitchers at 1.97 runs per game and a 3.33 ERA when he was dealt on July 30.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland had no idea what he was getting when Detroit acquired the 6-foot-8 right-hander and reliever David Pauley for outfielder Casper Wells, infielder Francisco Martinez and left-hander Charlie Furbush.

Leyland learned quickly. Fister won his first start and went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA for Detroit.

“Certainly when we got him I didn’t know he would end up starting the second game of the playoffs,” Leyland said. “But as it turned out, I felt like he and Justin (Verlander) were our hottest pitchers. That’s the way we decided to go.”

Max Scherzer will start Game 3 for Detroit and Rick Porcello would get the ball for Game 4.

Nova was plucked away from the Yankees by San Diego in the 2008 winter meeting draft, then returned the following March. He was pitching well in the difficult AL East, going 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA, when he was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 3 to make room for Phil Hughes, who was coming off the disabled list.

When the right-hander returned, he was determined to stay. Nova finished with a 16-4 record, the most wins among major league rookies this year.

“I think I was more aggressive. I was getting ahead on everybody every time I can,” Nova said. “I came here with another mindset: I don’t want to go back to the minor leagues. I was making sure to do everything possible to not go back to the minors again.”

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