CLEVELAND -- Mother Nature dealt the Yankees and Indians another knockout blow Thursday night, and this one really hurt.
With a second straight rainout and no more trips to Cleveland on their schedule this season, it is likely the Yankees will have to travel back here May 13 to play a doubleheader on what would have been a day off, resulting in a stretch of 17 games in 16 days.
“I don’t think there’s anything else you can do," a disappointed Joe Girardi said after the game was called off around 9 p.m., approximately two hours after it was scheduled to begin.
“I thought we were going to play tonight," he said. “I really did."
The back-to-back rainouts -- Wednesday night’s game was postponed as well -- is not only disrupting the Yankees' pitching rotation, but is also interrupting a streak in which the Yankees offense had suddenly heated up to score 32 runs in three games after starting the season with a 1-4 record.
On Sunday, they had beaten Justin Verlander and the Tigers, 7-0, and then steamrolled the Indians, 11-6 and 14-1, in the first two games of this series. But that streak came to screeching halt due to two days of driving rains.
“It’s not what you want," Girardi said. “We were swinging the bats really good. But you’ve got to deal with it."
Now, as he did Wednesday with scheduled starter Ivan Nova, Girardi will skip Phil Hughes in the Yankees rotation in order to preserve the every-five-days routine of his big three, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, all of whom were sent back to New York earlier Thursday in anticipation of a late, rainy night in Cleveland.
By the time Nova and Hughes get to start again -- which won't be until April 16 and 17 at Yankee Stadium against the Arizona Diamondbacks -- both will have gone 11 days between starts.
“I’ve never minded the extra rest," said Hughes, who shook off a stomach virus Wednesday to prepare to pitch on Thursday. “I always feel like I’m a little more fresh. I’m not as sharp command-wise, but I feel like I’ll have a little bit extra.”
Girardi said he would send both Nova and Hughes to the bullpen between now and their next starts, and would have one or both ready as long men in the event Friday night’s game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium is plagued by rain.
“I know the weather’s not great in New York tomorrow," Girardi said. “I think the rain will be out by the time we start, but if we got in a lengthy rain delay, I’ve got two pretty fresh arms with CC starting. Really fresh, actually."
Girardi said he had no problem with the way Thursday night’s postponement was handled -- the start of the game was delayed before any rain had fallen, and then at 8:05 p.m. an announcement was made that the game would start at 8:30 although it was still raining hard and the field was covered -- but seemed displeased with baseball’s practice of scheduling April games in cold-weather cities.
“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once," Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this."
An early-season postponement of a game between division rivals gives the teams two more chances to make up a lost game or two. A one-shot trip like this one requires the teams to get all the scheduled games in, or rearrange their schedules later in the season to make them up.
The postponement was all the more galling since the game could have been played in the afternoon, when not a drop of rain fell. Now, with the Yankees not scheduled to make another trip to Cleveland this season, they will be forced to make an unscheduled stop here on their way home from a six-game trip to Colorado and Kansas City.
"It’s tough," Girardi said. “But it’s something we have to deal with."