They will never admit this, of course, but considering the way things went for the Tigers Saturday night, it is quite possible that their chance of winning this series went down the drain when rain washed out Justin Verlander's start Friday night.
Their second-best starter took over in the second inning of a resumed game Saturday night and took his lumps. Doug Fister, having finished September on a 7-0 run and the American League pitcher of the month, was no match for the Yankees in a 9-3 loss. Now the Tigers will send untested pitcher Max Scherzer out there for Game 2 Sunday, facing the possibility that this American League Division Series could be all but done by the time Verlander gets to pitch Monday in Detroit.
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If nothing else, it was weird, starting the game in the bottom of the second after the suspension of play Friday night. So what did that mean to the Tigers? "A lot. We had our best pitcher out there," said the Tigers' top hitter, Miguel Cabrera. "But that's part of life. We have to go out there and play better tomorrow."
Fister had said Friday that he has no set routine on the days he pitches, a habit that certainly worked for him after he was traded from the Mariners on July 30. But by the time the suspended Game 1 reached the seventh inning Saturday night, Fister followed the routine of many other first-time postseason Yankees opponents: He sat in the dugout, dejected and mystified.
It wasn't the oddness of the situation, either. "For me, it was a scheduled 8:37 start. It wasn't anything different. It was a 0-0 ballgame in my head," Fister said. "I had to go out there, facing the Yankee lineup."
That proved too much for him and reliever Al Alburquerque, who relieved Fister with the bases loaded in the sixth. The former gave up a run-scoring double to Robinson Cano in the fifth, the latter allowed a grand slam to the same batter.
"As you can see," said Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson, who came up through the Yankees' system and learned from Cano, "he's one of the best hitters."
The Tigers noticed how the momentum swung in the top of the fifth when Jackson tried to steal second, only to draw Cano to the bag, where he was perfectly positioned to turn Magglio Ordoñez's potential single into an easy double play. That's just the way it goes.
"It seems like every time we come in here for a postseason game, something weird happens," third baseman Brandon Inge said, thinking back to 2006, when the Tigers lost Game 1, were rained out of the first date for Game 2, then won three straight. But back then, they had Verlander to start Game 2. This time, they have to get through another game at Yankee Stadium before they can give the ball to the ace of the American League.
"I don't really think about stuff like that," manager Jim Leyland said. "This is just a series where you're going to pitch your guys."