May 8, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

The Tigers game that should have been

The Tigers likely could have played Tuesday, but the game was called off hours before the scheduled first pitch. (Associated Press)

Wondering why the Tigers almost never call games early in the day when the weather forecast looks uber-gloomy? See Tuesday night's debacle in Washington, D.C.

The Nationals put the kibosh on the game nearly three hours before the scheduled first pitch because of a storm that, by all accounts, never came. It was similar to the gaffe in the 2011 American League Championship Series between the Tigers and Rangers, who waited an additional day to play Game 2 because of a sketchy forecast. Like Tuesday, that rain never arrived.

Now, we always will excuse such a decision in the playoffs. You don't want to run the risk of starting the game, then eventually see it delayed it for two hours, thus burning the starting pitchers.

But in the regular season? A roll of the dice might be more appropriate.

"Hasn't been one drop of rain since game was cancelled yesterday," Tigers TV man Rod Allen tweeted Wednesday morning. He followed that with the hash tag "smh."

That means "shake my head."

It definitely was a head-scratcher, especially when right down the road in Baltimore, the Orioles played — much to the delight of the Royals, who've already had five postponements and played two doubleheaders. The teams did have to wait out a delay in the seventh inning but just for 48 minutes.

Across the country, weather has been brutal early in this baseball season, from snow in Colorado and Kansas City, to buckets of rain throughout the Midwest.

In fact, according to Sports Business Journal, Tuesday's Tigers-Nationals "rain"-out was MLB's 21st postponement of the season. And that matches the entire total from the 2012 season.

So, given the scheduling nightmares that often result, maybe the Tigers' wait-and-see approach isn't all that bad, after all. Now, often, the Tigers get flak — including, admittedly, from myself — for holding off on any postponement announcement until right before or around first pitch, when an earlier call would be more perceived as fan-friendly. Some see their policy as little more than a ploy to get the fans downtown and have them pay for parking and a beer or two before being sent on their way.

While that might not be totally far-fetched, there are several factors in play.

First, the Tigers, who are drawing nearly 35,000 a game, understand that fans' time is precious, and schedules aren't often flexible. If they buy tickets to a game, they expect that game to be played. So the Tigers try their best to accommodate, while also understanding that trying to start a ballgame in the 9 or 10 o'clock hour isn't ideal, either, for fans who arrive downtime around 5 or even earlier.

They also have the players in mind, too. Rainouts lead to either a) doubleheaders, which can be especially taxing on a team, particularly bullpens; or b) losing off days later in the season, when they are precious commodities.

And the Tigers also get that weather forecasting simply isn't a perfect science. Comerica Park head groundskeeper Heather Nabozny often monitors multiple radars in attempting to determine what, if any, window might be available. Even then, there's no guaranteeing that expected showers will arrive.

That is why I can't recall one time in recent memory when the Tigers called a game two hours or more before the scheduled start time. They seem to operate by the old adage, seeing is believing.

Robin Williams' character in the classic movie "Good Morning Vietnam" once delivered the weather report this way: "You got a window? Open it!"

Funny. If the Nationals had done that Tuesday, they would've played a ballgame.

Window on the world

There was definitely a disconnect between the Indians and manager Manny Acta down the stretch in 2012. New manager Terry Francona is doing his best to keep that from happening on his watch. And maybe, just maybe, all it will take is a window.

At his request, there recently was one installed in his office, located down the hall from the Indians clubhouse. If nothing else, it helps send the message he's accessible.

"I didn't think it was gonna make news," Francona said last week. "The only time I was ever seeing the players is when they would go to the food room, sometimes the training room. I didn't like it.

"I don't want to be back there by myself. I want to have interaction with the players and coaches and clubhouse guys and trainers. It's amazing how that window helps."

It's probably just coincidence that after a rough start to the season, the Indians are 6-1 on their current homestand since the window was installed. Players, though, definitely go out of their way to cite the influence Francona already has had.

"The good teams pick each other up and the bad teams pick each other apart. And we're not finger-pointing over here, we're all in this together," Nick Swisher told The News. "And when you've got a guy like Terry Francona leading the room, you're feeling pretty good about your chances."

Harvey danger

Justin Verlander has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball for the past several years now. But does he finally have competition?

The White Sox sure think so after losing, 1-0, in 10 innings to the Mets on Tuesday night. They were shut down by Matt Harvey, who allowed a measly infield single in nine shutout innings.

"He's got pretty much as dominant stuff as anyone we've seen, Verlander stuff," White Sox manager Robin Ventura told the New York Post. "Velocity, composure, movement. He has everything."

Harvey, 24, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 draft, is 4-0 with a 1.28 earned-run average in seven starts this season. He has allowed a mere 22 hits in 49.1 innings, while striking out a National League-leading 58.

The big right-hander struck out 12 and walked nobody Tuesday.

"(Harvey) is about as similar to (Verlander) as anyone in our league," Ventura told the New York Post. "That is the biggest comparison."

From the mid- to high-90s fastball to the three quality secondary pitches, the Tigers and Mets aces sure will draw more comparisons as the year goes on. And there just might be a Verlander-Harvey showdown, too. The Tigers and Mets meet at Citi Field in New York from Aug. 23-25.

Three up …

*Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has hit in 27 consecutive games. Granted, the streak began all the way back last July 2! But, yes, it still counts.

*The Yankees (18-13), remarkably, have stayed afloat in the ultra-competitive AL East, despite an injury report that reads like "War and Peace."

*Ryan Raburn isn't the only ex-Tiger getting it done. New Pirates closer Jason Grilli (13-for-13 in saves) appears almost certain to be an All-Star selection.

… three down

*The Angels and Dodgers have combined for nearly $400 million in payroll, but are 24-40. The Dodgers can blame injuries, the Angels starting pitching.

*Phillies starter Roy Halladay looks nothing like a two-time Cy Young winner. He was smacked around his last two starts, and now is on the DL (shoulder) and set for surgery.

*In its second year, billion-dollar Marlins Park will close the upper deck for six upcoming weeknight games, and maybe more, because of awful attendance.

Diamond digits

2 -- Teams in the top seven in payroll leading a division (Tigers, Red Sox).

47 -- Games the Astros went without a come-from-behind victory, before winning Tuesday. Per Elias, it was the longest such drought since a 58-gamer by the Rangers in 1972-73.

5/9/79 -- At the Astrodome, umpire Dave Pallone ejects the entire Cardinals bench after players threw helmets and bats on the field in response to a call.

He said it

"You're gonna find out really quick what kind of ballclub you have playing against them."

-- Jason Giambi, Indians DH, on this weekend's series against the Central Division-leading Tigers

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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