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…Come again some…oh, what’s the use? The Yankees have already had 1,876 games affected by rain this season. It’s only fitting that their first playoff contest would suffer the same fate. The MLB suspended the Yankees-Tigers ALDS game on Friday night in the bottom of the second inning after over an hour of torrential rainfall and no window in sight. The game will restart on Saturday at 8:37pm EST.
The most significant impact of the weather is that both teams have lost their aces for Game 1. The Tigers announced that Justin Verlander would pitch Game 3 on Monday, and the Yankees indicated that CC Sabathia would start that game as well. However, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Sabathia is lobbying to pitch on Sunday, which would allow him to start Game 5, if necessary. Certainly for Verlander, though, this rain out means that he will only pitch once this ALDS, since Tigers manager Jim Leyland has maintained that he won’t start his ace on short rest. On Friday night, Sabathia tweeted, “I will be ready for the next time I get the ball.” Purposely vague? Perhaps.
The Bombers announced that Ivan Nova, the scheduled Game 2 starter, will pitch Saturday night and that Freddy Garcia will now start the second game, which is scheduled to begin at 3:07 on Sunday. With Game 3 on Monday, Games 4 and 5 are set for Tuesday and Thursday.
Sabathia started Game 1 by striking out the first two hitters he faced in seven pitches. He looked sharp. Playoff CC was in the building. Then, he gave up a short home run to Delmon Young, and the Tigers suddenly had a 1-0 lead. Although it was just the first inning, making up a run against Verlander is a uniquely daunting task for any lineup.
The Yankees were able to do it bottom of the first, without even getting a hit. Verlander struck out Derek Jeter on a wild pitch, but the Captain ran hard out of the box (a Jeterian trademark) and made it to first before catcher Alex Avila’s throw. One on, no outs. Verlander proceeded to walk Curtis Granderson on a full count. Two on, no outs. Robinson Cano then grounded to first basemen Miguel Cabrera. It seemed like a double-play ball, but Cabrera went for the out at first as Jeter and Grandy advanced to second and third. Verlander also induced a ground ball from Alex Rodriguez, scoring Jeter. Tied 1-1. The Tiger’s ace issued his second walk of the inning to Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher grounded out to end the inning.
Two walks, a wild pitch, and some questionable defensive plays. I like it, Tigers. Maybe Verlander was nervous. Maybe it was the rain. From this first inning at least, CC had much stronger command of the strike zone than his counterpart. In the top of the second, Sabathia notched two more strike-outs, and the grounds crew brought the tarp onto the field after the third out.
TBS began the rain delay by showing a segment in which Cal Ripkin Jr. interviewed Jeter. I enjoyed watching the two shortstop greats talk about aging in the major leagues, Jeter’s 3,000th hit, and his controversial home run against Ripkin’s Orioles in the 1996 playoffs. That said, I would have enjoyed baseball more. A lot more.
After the first 30 minutes of the delay, I couldn’t help but think (worry) about CC, riding an exercise bike and throwing simulated innings behind the dugout. I wondered if he would go back out after 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes? Would Verlander? I decided that CC was workhorse, and that Verlander was a bit more fragile (after all, Leyland refused to pitch him on short rest). But then I remembered Verlander’s 2011 numbers and I reconsidered. Truly, though, is anyone in the world tougher than Sabathia? No. So there. I wondered who would pitch for the Yankees in long relief if CC didn’t come back. A.J. Burnett? Would that be too ironic? Phil Hughes, maybe? How would this affect the Tigers? Clearly, everyone who picked Detroit to win the series on the power of a single player would have to rethink their position. How would this impact the rotation for the team that advances to the ALCS? And what would happen if it continued to rain all day Saturday, as the forecast indicated?
After the umpires and MLB VP of Operations Joe Torre called the game, Joe Girardi took the podium in the press room. He said CC was sharp, and agreed with reporters that his ace may only pitch once more in this series. He said Nova would pick up the rest of Game 1. He noted that he didn’t blame the MLB for starting the game; the weather can be tricky. And he lamented that it’s “too late to put a roof on [Yankee Stadium].” True that.
To be continued … tomorrow (hopefully) … with a playoff virgin on the mound for each team in Nova and Doug Fister.