ARLINGTON, TX: Mike Gonzalez #51 of the Texas Rangers reacts after the final out of the top of the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers in Game One of the American League Championship Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series didn't seem to have a shape until almost exactly the middle of the game; to be precise, when there were two outs in the top of the fifth inning. At that point, there was simply no telling that the Rangers could beat the Tigers, 3-2.
The Rangers got on the board first, in the second inning. Mike Napoli led off with a single. After an out, David Murphy looked completely fooled by a Verlander pitch, but somehow drove it to the warning track in right-center field for a triple that plated Napoli. And after Verlander got Mitch Moreland on a grounder to the mound, Ian Kinsler drove in Murphy with a single to right.
This is probably the right spot to mention that Verlander seemed to be getting squeezed by the plate umpire Tim Welke ... but that C.J. Wilson was getting squeezed, too. And Wilson, for a while at least, didn't seem to let it bother him.
Verlander finally got out of the second and pitched a good third, but fell behind 3-0 when Nelson Cruz drove a pitch well over the fence in left field. Verlander eventually got out of the fourth, too. He'd thrown 82 pitches, which is a lot for four innings but you had to figure he had another inning or two in the tank.
Except then the rains came.
Ramon Santiago led off the top of the fifth with a double off Wilson. A moment or so later, Welke stopped the game and called for the tarp. The delay lasted 41 minutes. Upon resumption, the Rangers and Tigers were able to play baseball for 13 minutes until the next delay ... and in those 13 minutes, with Wilson still pitching, the Tigers scored a couple of runs on Austin Jackson's double and Wilson's wild pitch. With two outs, the Tigers also loaded the bases.
Then the rains came again.
There would be no more rain delays. There would be no more runs, as nine relief pitchers -- including scheduled Game 4 starter Rick Porcello, who went two frames -- combined for 8⅓ shutout innings, including just two hits. It was the Rangers' relievers who really mattered, though, and Neftali Feliz capped his squad's effort with a save.
Not that it was easy. Ramon Santiago led off for the Detroit and, perhaps knowing he stood little chance for a conventional hit, dropped a perfect bunt for a single. No matter. Feliz struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit on three high-90s fastballs. Austin Jackson, same basic story, except Strike 3 to Jackson hit 101 on the gun. If you didn't see it for yourself, here's a visual aid:
Give Ryan Raburn, due next, due credit: He took his place in the batter's box. More credit: Raburn actually hit a foul ball (granted, that came on Feliz's first off-speed pitch in the inning). But that at-bat ended just as the others did, with Raburn swinging through an unhittable fastball.
Standing on deck when the game ended? Miguel Cabrera.
Aside from the Rangers winning Game 1, the big story so far is Justin Verlander, who has now started three postseason games and, thanks to rain in two of them, has totaled just 13 innings.