Nova 2nd rookie to start do-or-die playoff game

Ivan Nova’s victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series was technically a relief appearance because of the rain suspension, so Thursday night he was becoming only the second rookie to start a winner-take-all postseason game.

The only other was Phillies righthander Marty Bystrom in Game 5 of the 1980 National League Championship Series at Houston. Bystrom was not involved in the decision, an 8-7, 10-inning Philadelphia victory. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed 2 runs (1 earned), 7 hits and 2 walks with 1 strikeout in 5 1/3 innings.

Frankly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi would take that from Nova, who held the Tigers to 2 runs and 4 hits with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts in Game 1, a 9-3 Yankees rout. Their bullpen is pretty fresh all things considered, thanks to the length they got from A.J. Burnett in Game 4 at Detroit.

Girardi also has the option of using CC Sabathia out of the pen against a left-handed batter who likely would not have seen him since most of the Tigers’ lefty hitters were in platoon situations. I would also not be surprised if Joe used either David Robertson or Mariano Rivera and perhaps even both to pitch two innings.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland remained adamant that Game 3 winner Justin Verlander, the AL Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player candidate, will not pitch in Game 5. Yankees fans may think that is a ruse, but I believe him. Verlander did his job, and Leyland doesn’t want to tax his ace who was still throwing 100 miles per hour in the eighth inning Tuesday night.

Besides, the Tigers have Game 2 winner Max Sherzer, who shut out the Yankees for six-plus innings at Yankee Stadium, available as a long man should Game 1 loser Doug Fister falter. That is not chopped liver.

The Yankees were playing a winner-take-all ALDS Game 5 for the seventh time and the first since they lost to the Angels in 2005. It was the Yanks’ ninth deciding game in the best-of-5 format, also including the AL Championship Series of 1976 and ’77, both against the Royals.

Thursday night was the Yankees’ fourth Game 5 in a best-of-5 series at home. They had won the previous three: 1976 ALCS against the Royals, 1981 ALDS against the Brewers and 2001 ALDS against the Athletics. Overall, the Bombers are 5-3 in Game 5 of best-of-5 series and 11-10 all time in winner-take-all games, including 6-7 in Game 7s. They are 8-6 in ALDS games when facing elimination.

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