Rain extinguishes Tigers' rally in fifth inning
Avila waits out delay with bases loaded, only to ground out
ARLINGTON -- Those bands of heavy rain that passed over Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday evening were a welcome sight for an area that has battled drought conditions for some time.
But the Tigers have seen plenty of the wet stuff, having had two of Justin Verlander's three postseason starts affected already. The downpour on Saturday in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series came at a most inopportune time, interrupting what was shaping up as a fifth-inning rally.
"It did, but at the same time, it didn't matter," Detroit's Austin Jackson said after a 3-2 loss. "We still had to go out there and battle and try to get a win. It just didn't happen."
Two delays spanning one hour, 50 minutes marked the top of the fifth, the second, and longer, one coming with the Rangers holding a lead that would hold up as the final score.
Play was initially halted at 9:42 p.m. ET after a leadoff double by Ramon Santiago against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson.
"I think this was a little bit of a weird night, obviously, with the rain the way it was," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
It resumed after a delay of 41 minutes, and the Tigers had enough time to score on Jackson's double and a wild pitch that scooted away from catcher Mike Napoli, allowing Jackson to score.
The Tigers looked to finally have Wilson on the ropes after he'd dodged serious damage, especially in the first inning. But Wilson got Victor Martinez to bounce harmlessly back to the mound for the second out.
"It's one of those days. We left some runners on base [nine in all]," Martinez said. "I think that hurt the team a little bit, but it is what it is."
Home-plate umpire Tim Welke then was forced to call for the tarpaulin once more as the downpour returned, and play was once again stopped, this time at 10:36 p.m.
"We had another good opportunity with Victor hitting in a good situation," Leyland said. "You give their pitchers credit. We didn't come out of it with anything."
Alex Avila was about to hit after an intentional walk to Magglio Ordonez, and play resumed after a one hour, nine minute delay, with Mike Gonzalez inducing an inning-ending ground ball to shortstop.
"That's a tough situation," Leyland said. "We told him to be patient. Gonzalez has great stuff. ... That's not easy to come out after the rain delay and walk up there with the bases loaded."
Avila said that the long pause between the on-deck circle and the batter's box didn't affect him.
"I didn't think they were going to bring back Wilson after the second rain delay but, you know, it's the same situation," Avila said. "It's the same type of mindset. We had a chance to win this game, and we just didn't get a big hit."
In fact, Rangers manager Ron Washington said, he would have permitted Wilson to face Avila had the rain not come. Who knows how the inning would have progressed?
"Before the rain came, Avila was going to be C.J.'s last guy," Washington said. "So we came back, we brought out Gonzalez. ... Some nights, things fall into place for you. Some nights they don't. Tonight, they fell into place for us."
The Rangers hadn't seen a rain delay at The Ballpark since May 24, but little could the Tigers have known that the rare occurrence might have closed their final window to claim the lead.
"It's tough when you can't get those timely hits, especially when you're doing a good job of getting [runners] out there," Jackson said. "You've got to take some positives in getting those guys out there, knowing that eventually those big hits will come."
Alexi Ogando led the charge out of a very tough Rangers bullpen, firing two hitless innings with three strikeouts. Darren Oliver recorded two outs and Mike Adams got one, setting up Neftali Feliz for the save.
"You tip your hat to them, they did their job," Ryan Raburn said. "But our bullpen did their job too. They kept them down. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get a run or two across."