Two rain delays couldn’t stop the Texas Rangers from moving one step closer to a return trip to the World Series. Texas weathered the storm, and a Detroit Tigers rally, in Arlington on Saturday, to go up one love (3-2) in the American League Championship Series.
Texas battled through the rain delays, of 41 and 69 minutes, in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. Although the stoppage in play would have deterred most teams, the defending AL Champions didn’t allow a pair of delays to rain on their parade.
The Rangers came out strong as they faced the Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander. It was clear early on that Verlander wasn’t at his best as he struggled with his pitching mechanics on the mound. The leading AL Cy Young candidate gave up three runs in the game’s first four innings. Verlander walked two of the first four batters he faced and threw 82 pitches in four innings before the first delay. He struck out five –including Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre– in the first without a run after his initial two walks.
In the second inning, catcher Mike Napoli earned a leadoff single for the Rangers. One out later, Texas outfielder David Murphy reached down to catch a changeup and smacked it towards the gap in right-center for a run-scoring triple. He later scored on Ian Kinsler’s single. And two innings later, a revived Nelson Cruz (who was in a 0-for-10 postseason slump) crushed a Verlander fastball for a solo homer over left-field wall– for what proved to be the winning run. It was over for the supernova pitcher after that.
Texas starter C.J. Wilson had some troubles of his own early on, allowing six base runners in the first three innings only to pitch out of trouble every time. He regained his composure in the fourth striking out the side. But after the 41-minute delay in the fifth, Wilson returned to the mound out of sync and allowed the Tigers to sneak back into the game. In between delays, Detroit’s Austin Jackson doubled in a run and scored on a wild pitch, pulling the Tigers’ within a run (3-2). Wilson had thrown 72 pitches before the first delay and made 24 more during the short resumption. A groundout and an intentional walk loaded the bases and brought the Tigers’ left-handed-hitter Alex Avilla to the batters box. And that’s when the torrential rain resumed for the second time, ending Wilson’s day early.
The Rangers’ manager Ron Washington then relied on his bullpen to close out the Tigers. Texas arguably has the best bullpen in the playoffs and Washington displayed why on Saturday. Mike Gonzalez replaced Wilson after the second delay and needed only two pitches to retire Avilla and strand the loaded bases. Texas relievers Alexi Ogando (struck out three), Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and closer Neftali Feliz took it from there. Feliz struck out the Tigers side, Wilson Betemit, Jackson and Ryan Raburn, in the top of the ninth to end the game.
Due to inclement weather on Sunday, Game 2 of the ALCS was postponed and moved to Monday afternoon. Texas starter Derek Holland will face Detroit’s weapon Max Scherzer, as the Tigers look to even the series at a game apiece.