NEW YORK -- Shortly before 11 p.m. ET Friday, a Major League Baseball operative consulted his smartphone in the Yankee Stadium press box and pulled up the weather forecast for Game 1 of the American League Division Series between New York and Detroit. At this point in the evening, it was pouring out on the field and everybody was in need of a good laugh.
"Any rain before 11 p.m. will last for only five or 10 minutes," the executive read from the official MLB forecast issued several hours earlier, "and be very light in nature.''
Right. And there's no possible way the Red Sox and Braves could both blow gigantic leads in September to miss the playoffs.
Hey, if a faulty weather forecast could wreck your high school class reunion and Fourth of July picnic, there's no reason it can't wreak havoc on the start of the 2011 postseason in New York. The Yankees and Tigers began play Friday with a marquee matchup between CC Sabathia and Cy Young Award winner-in-waiting Justin Verlander. Several downpours, a 1-hour,17-minute delay and lots of scrambling later, the outlook is cloudy with a chance of chaos.
Verlander threw 25 pitches in an inning of work. Sabathia threw 27 pitches in two innings of work before the umpiring crew suspended play with the score tied at 1-all in the bottom of the second inning.
It will be a while before we see the two staff aces take the mound again.
Here's where things stand: Weather permitting, the teams will resume play at 8:37 p.m. Saturday with rookie Ivan Nova pitching for the Yankees and Doug Fister on the mound for Detroit. After the memorable Phillies-Rays World Series weather nightmare in 2008, baseball decreed that games halted because of inclement weather would be resumed as-is when conditions permit and have to go the entire nine innings to be deemed official.
And the aces? They'll go Monday at Comerica Park in Game 3, which means each will be available to pitch only once in the series rather than twice. It's a stunning turn of events, and disappointing given their stature and their impressive portfolios. But both managers, New York's Joe Girardi and Detroit's Jim Leyland, downplayed the twist of fate and refused to grouse about the weather.
"I don't worry about stuff like that," Leyland said. "I think when the manager makes a big deal about something like that, it affects the players. It is what it is. Good Lord, it rained. So what? It's all about three. Win three, lose three. That's what this is about."
This is nothing new for the Yankees, who endured nine postponements and 13 rain delays during the regular season. Given all the time Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson spent dealing with weather issues in his capacity as team player representative, it's a wonder he found time to hit 41 homers, score 136 runs and contend for the AL MVP award.
"We've been through this all year long," Girardi said. "It's not what either club wanted, but both clubs have to deal with it. The one thing I probably learned, as much as anything else, is you cannot fight Mother Nature."
Barring a change, it appears Rick Porcello will oppose A.J. Burnett in Game 4 of the series Tuesday, with Nova and Fister back on the mound if there's a climactic fifth game Thursday in New York. For those who are wondering why Verlander and Sabathia can't come back sooner, this is a lesson in the difference between throwing an inning or two in a postseason game and completing a routine side session in the bullpen.
"It's obviously very different," Verlander said in the Tigers' clubhouse late Friday night. "You have to take into account all the pitches you throw to get loose in the bullpen -- not to mention the level of intensity in the game. It's totally different. I don't expect to feel as good tomorrow as I would have if it was just a bullpen session."
For what it's worth, the Reader's Digest version of Sabathia was superior to the abbreviated version of Verlander. Sabathia's fastball was popping, he was throwing strikes and the Tigers scored their only run on an opposite-field, Yankee Stadium home run by Delmon Young in the first.
Verlander, meanwhile, threw 14 strikes and 11 balls in his only inning, and issued a pair of walks. Derek Jeter struck out to lead off the game but reached on a wild pitch and came around to score on an Alex Rodriguez ground ball. The Yankees scored without the benefit of a hit.
It wasn't the Verlander everyone expected, and he never got a chance to find his rhythm. But he'll be rooting for Fister in Game 2, with his optimism and sense of humor fully intact.
"Hopefully we come in [Saturday]," Verlander said, "and Doug finishes the no-hitter."
Follow Jerry Crasnick on Twitter @jcrasnick.