Why Game 4 was rained out before the rain
The skies were dry over Comerica Park as first pitch approached for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. The tarp was nowhere near the infield. But it became obvious something was up was there were no players on the field, either, 20 minutes before game time, when they’re usually warming up. Nobody could be seen in the dugouts, and neither starting pitcher was playing catch, let alone warming in the bullpen.
Moments later, the delay was announced. Little more than an hour later, with just a few drops of rain having fallen, the game was called.
If you remember Game 2 of last year’s ALCS, the rainout in Texas (where it actually didn’t rain at the ballpark until late that night), you know that MLB is using an abundance of caution in the postseason nowadays to try to ensure that a nine-inning game gets in. If you remember Game 1 of last year’s AL Division Series in New York, where the game was suspended after an inning and a half of a highly-anticipated pitching duel between Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, leaving both teams to cover innings with their bullpens the next day, you know why.
If it was a regular-season game, there’s a far better chance that game starts. But MLB doesn’t want postseason series decided by teams forced by rain into long relief if they can at all help it. And they’re not going to call a clinching game in the sixth inning on account of rain. That’s not a Yankee thing, because it also happened in the Phillies-Rays series of 2008, when commissioner Bud Selig used the “best interests of the game” clause to suspend Game 5 in the sixth inning with the Phillies ahead.
The storm system coming up from Ohio was big, judging from radar images, and it was strong enough to cast serious doubts on playing through it. So initially, they made the decision to try to wait it out in hopes that it would pass through. Once it became clear it wasn’t going to move through fast enough, they decided to call it. Eventually, around 10pm, the rain picked up enough to make it look like they couldn’t play through.
Bottom line: If you know you’re not going to be able to finish a nine-inning game until tomorrow, you’re better off waiting to start it until then. There was definitely some frustration over it, including in the clubhouse, but to get a nine-inning game in without burning through the bullpen, it’s what they have.