x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Just one of those days' for Verlander

A rainy night and the Texas Rangers combined to make it a miserable outing for Justin Verlander as Detroit fell in the opening game of the American League Championship Series.

When he was not looking up at rain drops, Justin Verlander, bottom right, was craning his neck to see where Texas batters, such as Nelson Cruz, where sending his pitches.
When he was not looking up at rain drops, Justin Verlander, bottom right, was craning his neck to see where Texas batters, such as Nelson Cruz, where sending his pitches.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS // A few minutes past midnight and into Sunday, the Texas Rangers had a rare victory over Justin Verlander, and the Detroit Tigers lost another wet play-off opener.

"If anywhere in the country has a drought, just bring me in and I'll fix that," Verlander said after the Rangers beat him 3-2 in a game that started Saturday night, the opener of the American League Championship Series.

The rain delays were the first at Rangers Ballpark since May 24, as this has been one of the hottest and driest summers ever in North Texas, including 27 games when the temperature was 100°F (37.8°C) or more at first pitch.

But Verlander was not his usual, dominant self even before the weather turned nasty.

Detroit scored three runs off the probable AL Cy Young winner before the game was interrupted twice by rain for almost two hours in the top of the fifth inning.

Those runs matched the number of runs he had allowed in all 21 previous innings he had pitched at Rangers Ballpark.

Verlander stayed loose during the first delay, but when the second delay lasted more than an hour, the decision to switch pitchers was "a no-brainer", Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, said.

So Mother Nature knocked out Verlander - just as she did in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, when he threw just 25 pitches against the New York Yankees before a storm hit.

That game resumed without him the next day.

Against the Rangers, Verlander allowed five hits, walked two and struck out five. He did not have a single clean inning.

"I just didn't have it," Verlander said. "My location wasn't very good at all. My off-speed stuff wasn't great ... It was just one of those days."

He had thrown only 82 pitches when the first delay hit. During that 41-minute wait, Verlander stayed warm by pitching in an indoor cage.

He also fixed a flaw in his delivery, throwing "seven or eight perfect pitches in a row."

"I was excited to go back out there," he said.

The Rangers' David Murphy had a run-scoring triple and scored on Ian Kinsler's single in the second inning, and Nelson Cruz had a lead-off homer in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

"He's throwing 100 miles an hour. You're just up there battling against a guy like that," Murphy said.

"We didn't have a lot of hits against him, but our at-bats were awesome. We were having five-, six-, seven-pitch at bats.

"We got hits when we needed to, and the bullpen made it stand up."

Texas faced Verlander only once during the regular season, winning 2-0 on April 11 when Verlander lost despite pitching a six-hitter.

He was 24-5 during the regular season and had been 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three previous career starts at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.

"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. I think that this was a little bit of a weird night, obviously."