Rain halts Tigers game in fourth inning
Before heavy downpours, pitching struggles vs. Yankees
TAMPA, Fla. -- What quickly became a long afternoon for Tigers pitching came to an abrupt end when heavy rains washed out Sunday's game against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in the fourth inning. It came none too soon for manager Jim Leyland, who was clearly getting nervous about a wet field.
New York held an 8-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and a chance to add on when play halted under a heavy downpour. As the Tigers left the field, Leyland could be seen in the dugout having what looked like a heated discussion with home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher.
Leyland seemingly grew agitated about the game continuing as conditions worsened during the inning. At one point in the final at-bat, a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly, Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer seemingly slipped on the mound while delivering a pitch.
"It looked to me like he slipped a little bit, and I just got real nervous," Leyland said. "I mean, we've got a lot at stake here, and so do the Yankees."
Scherzer said later he did not slip.
Weather played a major impact in the game from the start. With local radar showing thunderstorms on the way, the Yankees and Tigers both decided to scratch their scheduled starting pitchers in favor of non-roster relievers.
Thus, instead of Scherzer, Jon Kibler started for the Tigers in what was truly a no-win situation -- a short-notice assignment against a lineup of New York regulars -- and retired only one of the seven Yankees he faced. He gave up six runs on three hits and three walks as New York sent 12 batters to the plate in the opening inning.
"I felt sorry for the poor kid," Leyland said. "Sometimes it just isn't your day."
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After relief prospect Robbie Weinhardt finished out the first inning and pitched a clean second, though, in came Scherzer for the third. Likewise, the Yankees brought in starter Andy Pettitte around the same time, hoping to get in some work against big league hitters before heavier rains came.
Scherzer pitched 1 2/3 innings before finishing out the rest of his pitches in the batting cages. His second and final inning took an odd turn even before play halted when pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez mysteriously retreated back to first base on Robinson Cano's single. Third-base umpire Marty Foster mistakenly called the ball a catch at first before realizing it had dropped.
Two batters and a Granderson sacrifice fly later, play stopped. The abrupt halt led to the question whether Leyland had called for his team to leave the field. Leyland said it was the umpiring crew's call.
"I didn't call anybody off. I can't do that," Leyland said. "I think [Fletcher] was just getting ready to [call for the tarp] at the same time I was yelling that we have to do something. There's no issue at all. The umpires did nothing wrong, and neither did I.
"I probably overreacted. If anybody overreacted, it was me. But I got nervous."
Up next: The Tigers' Spring Training road trip continues Monday with their seventh and final matchup against the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. ET at Dunedin Stadium. Rick Porcello will get the start, with Phil Coke and Joel Zumaya also expected to pitch. Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge and Scott Sizemore are among those scheduled to make the trip to face Jays starter Dana Eveland.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.