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After losing opener, Tigers hope for '06 repeat

New York Yankees' Robinson Cano watches his grand slam off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque in the sixth inning during the continuation of Game 1 of baseball's American League division series on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. New York Yankees' Robinson Cano watches his grand slam off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque in the sixth inning during the continuation of Game 1 of baseball's American League division series on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
By Ronald Blum
AP Sports Writer / October 2, 2011

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NEW YORK—Quiet clubhouse. Quick turnaround.

The Detroit Tigers hope that just as they did five years ago, they'll rebound after losing their AL division series opener to the New York Yankees and ride the spurt to the World Series.

"You can't put too much in one game. Obviously you want to jump out on top early, but it's good to have short-term memory loss," Brandon Inge said after Saturday night's 9-3 defeat in the rain-interrupted opener. "If you harp on one loss, if you go into a losing streak like you do in the middle of the season, you're out, You're done. So you have to put the losses, the bad games behind you really quickly."

Doug Fister and Al Alburquerque were hit hard by the Yankees. Robinson Cano drove in six runs with a grand slam and two RBI doubles, leading the New York offense.

With the score 1-all, Cano put the Yankees ahead in the fifth with a double off Fister, a ball that hit the top of the left-field fence and bounced back, maybe an inch shy of a homer.

Brett Gardner pounced when Fister hung an 0-2 breaking ball in the sixth, driving a two-run single to right-center for a 4-1 lead.

"I really wanted to bounce the curveball. I left it up a little bit," Fister said. "He put it where he needed to put it."

Three batters later, Alburquerque relieved and Cano made sure there was no doubt about this one, depositing his second pitch into the second deck in right field.

When reporters approached Alburquerque in the clubhouse after the game, he waved them away.

"To me that was a no brainer," Leyland said. "Albuquerque has had a tremendous ratio of swings and misses. He had only faced him one time. He had struck him out."

Cano didn't miss this time. It was his fourth grand slam in less than two months.

There was no coming back for the Tigers, who looked like they were still resting after clinching the AL Central on Sept. 16.

Fister, the loser, gave up six runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings, failing to live up to his 8-1 record after Detroit acquired him from Seattle.

"Actually I thought Fister pitched really well," Leyland said. "I thought Fister made one bad pitch all night. I thought that was the pitch to Gardner that he got the base hit on."

Winner Ivan Nova did even better than CC Sabathia, whose heralded start against Justin Verlander was cut short when rain caused a 23-hour, 29-minute delay and suspension in the middle of second inning Friday night. Nova, a rookie, allowed four hits in 6 1-3 innings, pitching scoreless ball until he was charged with two runs in the ninth.

Detroit got its only runs Saturday in the ninth on Alex Avila's bases-loaded forceout off Luis Ayala and Ryan Raburn's RBI single.

Game 2 is set for Sunday afternoon, with Detroit's Max Scherzer (15-9) opposed by New York's Freddy Garcia (12-8). The series then shifts to Detroit on Monday, skipping a travel day.

All in all, not too dissimilar from 2006, when the Yankees spurted out to a five-run lead in the opener and coasted to an 8-4 win. The Tigers bounced back to sweep the next three games 4-3, 6-0 and 8-3, causing such tumult that the Yankees dropped Alex Rodriguez to eighth in the batting order for Game 4.

While afternoon rain cut short batting practice, it was dry by the time the game resumed at 8:36 p.m., and a record crowd of 50,940 came out to new Yankee Stadium on the first cool and blustery autumn night.

Strangely taking the mound first as the visiting pitcher because of the suspension, Fister worked out of a second-and-third, two-outs jam in the second. That started a streak of 11 straight batters he retired.

Former-Tiger Curtis Granderson ended it with a two-out single in the fifth, and Cano followed with his near homer. Umpires spent 4 minutes to go under the stands and review video, then determined the ball bounced back onto the field without touching the fan sitting in the first row, Chris Vitali, a 37-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J.

"Everyone in this row spoke about not reaching over and catching a ball," Vitali said. "We said, 'Don't do it. If it's Detroit, fine. Catch it.'"

That was the last good bounce for the Tigers, who twice ran into bad luck in the sixth.

In the top of the inning, what would have been a single up the middle by Magglio Ordonez turned into a double-play grounder because Cano sprinted over to cover second with Austin Jackson running and was in place to glove the ball, step on the base and throw to first.

Then, after Gardner singled in the bottom half, Derek Jeter hit what normally would have been an inning-ending grounder. But Gardner was running on the pitch and the ball went into right for a single, setting up a six-run inning capped by Cano's grand slam.

In the fifth, Avila had been thrown out the plate by Jeter's relay from Granderson on Jhonny Peralta's single to center.

"Initially I hesitated to make sure that Granderson wasn't going to catch it," Avila said. "The throw was like perfect."

It was that type of night.

Now the Tigers hope to gain a split before they return home, where they were 50-31 during the regular season.

"Win one tomorrow and get out of here 1-1," Verlander said, thinking optimistically, "and go home and got a chance to clinch there."

NOTES: Detroit has lost four straight postseason games dating to the 2006 World Series. The Tigers have lost eight of their last 12 postseason games. ... Fister allowed the most earned runs by a Tigers pitcher in the postseason since Verlander in the 2006 World Series opener.

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