Verlander washed away again; rain KOs ace in ALCS
AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Justin Verlander was washed out of another Game 1.
Scuffling through a wet postseason, the Detroit ace and likely AL Cy Young Award winner left a start early again Saturday night when a pair of rain delays prevented him from pitching more than four innings. He wound up the loser as the Tigers fell 3-2 to the Texas Rangers in the opener of the AL championship series.
Verlander wasn’t his usual, dominant self. The Rangers scored twice in the second and got a solo homer in the fourth, matching the number of runs he’d allowed in all 21 previous innings he’d pitched at Rangers Ballpark.
He’d thrown only 82 pitches, though, when the first delay hit. After a 41-minute wait, the Tigers scored twice and had the bases loaded when more rain fell, delaying the game again for 1 hour, 9 minutes.
“When the original one hit he was actually coming back out,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “When the second one came about, that was a no-brainer. I think that this was a little bit of a weird night, obviously, with the rain the way it was.”
So Mother Nature knocked out Verlander, not the Rangers. It was the same thing in Game 1 of the AL division series, when he threw just 25 pitches against the Yankees before a storm hit. The game resumed without him the next day.
Verlander returned three days later for Game 3, which he won. Leyland resisted the temptation of bringing him back on short rest out of the bullpen in Game 5, and seemed to be rewarded with having him for this game.
Verlander gave up five hits and walked two. He also struck out five. He didn’t have a single clean inning, with the Rangers reaching via hit or walk every frame.
Rick Porcello, Detroit’s announced starter for Game 4, replaced Verlander and pitched two scoreless innings. A series of relievers shut down the Rangers the rest of the way, but the Tigers couldn’t get anything going against Texas’ bullpen, either.
“I guess it’s a little weird Verlander was involved in both these rain situations,” Lyland said. “And truthfully, we’re going to go back when I get done with you guys and figure out what we’ll do now with the pitching. We really haven’t had time. We were trying to win the ballgame.”
The game began under threatening skies, and Detroit got off to a promising start by loading the bases with one out against Texas starter C.J. Wilson. With Verlander ready to take the mound, the Tigers had to be feeling good knowing they were one hit from taking control.
Instead, Magglio Ordonez grounded into a double play.
“C.J. made a great pitch on Magglio, cut a fastball in and got him to ground it to third,” Leyland said. “That was obviously a huge inning.”
Verlander opened by walking leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler, only to see him thrown out stealing second base. Then Elvis Andrus lifted a fly to right-center and Austin Jackson dropped it. Andrus hustled the whole way and wound up at second.
After a two-out walk to Michael Young, Verlander got out of the jam when Adrian Beltre – who was coming off a three-homer game in the Rangers’ clinching win over Tampa Bay – chased strike three.
Mike Napoli opened the second against Verlander with a single through the right side. Then David Murphy hit a ball to right-center that just kept carrying until it one-hopped the wall, turning into an RBI triple. A two-out single by Kinsler drove in Murphy for a 2-0 Texas lead.
Verlander gave up a two-out single to Beltre in the third, then in the fourth saw Nelson Cruz drive a pitch high and deep into the left-field seats.
The Rangers handed Verlander one of his five regular-season losses, although that came on April 11. He gave up just two runs in nine innings during that game, and hadn’t faced them since. He was 3-0 at Rangers Ballpark, and 6-2 against them overall.
“His control was not very good. He didn’t really have his curveball going for strikes,” Leyland said. “He had a tough time with it. I think probably trying to overthrow it a little bit.”
Verlander wouldn’t have been on the hook for the loss if Detroit’s hitters had come through a little more.
The Tigers wasted a bases-loaded chance in the first inning, and again in the fifth. After the second delay, which also ended Wilson’s night, Alex Avila hit a weak grounder to second base off reliever Mike Gonzalez.
“That’s not easy to come out after the rain delay and walk up there with the bases loaded and they bring in a new pitcher, a lefty,” Leyland said. “He won the battle tonight. I have no problem with that. That’s a tough situation for anybody.”
Detroit’s two runs came when Jackson hit an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch.
Alexi Ogando – who had all three of Texas’ regular-season wins against Detroit, all as a starter – shut out the Tigers in the sixth and seventh to earn the win. Because Wilson didn’t go five innings, the winning pitcher was at the discretion of the official scorer.
Detroit came into the game with its lineup weakened because of a strained oblique muscle that kept slugger Delmon Young off the series roster. Young hit three homers in the ALDS against the Yankees, a Tigers record for a postseason series, but was injured late in Game 5. He missed 19 games earlier this year with a similar injury and doctors decided he wouldn’t be ready during this series.
“Sure, we missed that bat in there. There’s no question about it. No excuses,” Leyland said. “I thought it was a great game, particularly under the conditions.”
Ryan Raburn started for Young in left field and went 1 for 3 with a single and two walks. He struck out swinging against closer Neftali Feliz for the last out of the game, at 12:03 p.m.
Miguel Cabrera moved up from cleanup to Young’s No. 3 spot in the order, with Victor Martinez taking over at No. 4 and Ordonez at No. 5 (then Don Kelly taking his place). The 3-4-5 spots in the lineup went a combined 1 for 9 with three walks, with Cabrera having the only hit, a single.
NOTES: Rain was rare for this stadium this season. The last rain delay at Texas was May 24. … RHP Max Scherzer will start Game 2 for Detroit on Sunday against LHP Derek Holland.