As minutes turned into hours, the rain that had saturated Yankee Stadium’s field Wednesday afternoon slowly began to disappear. As the forecast became clearer and clearer, so did the looming decision: the Yankees and Tigers would finish their series finale.
The Yankees (57-49) ended up losing 2-0 — the same score by which they trailed after seven innings when the game stopped with a flash of lightning and clap of thunder at 4:50 p.m. When the deluge began, it seemed unlikely that the game would ever resume.
“I don’t think many guys thought we were going to get it in,” Detroit starter and pitcher of record Jordan Zimmermann said.
“But once the rain started to break up, the Yankees are certainly in the thick of the race, it’s probably the fair thing to do to finish it if you can,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “If it had rained all the way through 8 o’clock, I think there’s some type of timestamp where you say, hey, this is long enough.”
Instead, the grounds crew, umpires and managers settled on a 7:30 resumption, which got pushed to 8:01 after centerfield required extra attention.
“Joe [Girardi] and I and [umpire crew chief] Jerry Layne all agreed we can’t play with the field looking like this,” Ausmus said. “First of all any ball that went through that would be significantly affected, but any player who ran across it could be injured. Again, these new fields, they drain so quickly. They assured us it wouldn’t take us much more than a half an hour to drain it, and it was pretty much spot on.”
Making matters worse, the start was delayed one hour, 26 minutes despite just a light rain falling. The game likely would have concluded before 4:50 p.m. had it begun on time.
“You don’t want to start in rain,” Ausmus said, “especially if there’s a possibility of more rain coming because now you burn your starting pitchers.”
Ausmus said he used the three-hour, 11-minute delay to prepare for Detroit’s upcoming series with Baltimore. The players simply hung out in the clubhouse and passed time playing cards and other games.
“Guys will be guys, right,” Detroit centerfielder Mikie Mahtook said. “Just having fun, acting like kids.”
Detroit led 1-0 after opening the game with three straight hits off Masahiro Tanaka. In the fourth, Tanaka hit Mahtook with a pitch, and Mahtook scored from first on James McCann’s single with help from Jacoby Ellsbury, who bobbled the ball in centerfield.
When play resumed at 8:01, Dellin Betances took the mound in the eighth and struck out the side on nine pitches for the sixth immaculate inning in Yankees history.
Ian Kinsler, who watched from the dugout as his teammates went down helplessly, said immediately following a lengthy rain delay or not, facing Betances is a challenge.
“For that at-bat it’s just kind of like grind it out,” Kinsler said. “Actually every time you face him it’s kind of like grind it out.”
In a way, that’s how the entire game was played. Except instead of grinding, there was a lot of waiting.