Detroit — It had been raining the entire night. The game had already been delayed once, for 45 minutes in the third inning, and manager Brad Ausmus was told as the Tigers batted in the bottom of the fifth in a 3-3 game that another large block of bad weather was moving in soon.
So, did the fifth inning feel like the bottom of the ninth?
“I mean, you jokingly talk about, ‘Do you bring K-Rod in the fifth inning knowing the rain is coming?’” Ausmus said. “But I’ve been fooled too many times by weather forecasts to do that. There have been a number of times when they say there is three hours of weather coming in a half hour, and it doesn’t come for another two hours.
“You end up getting caught with your pants down.”
Miguel Cabrera made sure nobody got caught with their pants down.
He unleashed one of his patented opposite-field laser shots, a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning that ended up being the game-winning blow in the Tigers’ 6-3, rain-shortened win Wednesday night.
Manager Brad Ausmus and pitcher Michael Fulmer discuss the rain-shortened win over Cleveland.
“Just tried to make something happen,” said Cabrera, who now has 36 homers on the season. “Don’t have to worry about the rain because you can’t control the weather. Go out there and do your job.”
It was Cabrera’s 306th home run as a Tiger, which ties him for third on the club’s all-time list with Hank Greenberg. He trails Al Kaline (399) and Norm Cash (373).
“When you score runs, anytime in the game, it’s big,” Cabrera said. “Doesn’t matter rain, no rain, if the sun is coming out.”
The rains fell in earnest after the Tigers were retired in the fifth. The game was delayed for 72 minutes before Major League Baseball called it off. The win keeps the Tigers one game behind the Orioles in the race for the second wild-card spot. The Orioles rallied in the ninth to beat the Blue Jays.
“I am sure Buck Showalter (Orioles manager) and Scott Servais (Mariners manager) would prefer to see the game played," Ausmus said. "But if they were here, they wouldn’t want it to be played. The forecast was beyond bad — three hours of straight rain.
“To ask two teams to stick around until 1 a.m., and maybe start up the game, when we play a 1 p.m. game the next day — it just doesn’t make sense.”
Nor would that be fair to the Tigers.
“That would impact our playoff hopes as much as what their complaint is about the game being called,” Ausmus said.
The Tigers were trailing 1-0 when the game was delayed for 45 minutes in the third inning.
Once the rains lessened enough to resume play, James McCann and Jose Iglesias greeted new Indians pitcher Cody Anderson with back-to-back doubles to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning.
Ian Kinsler followed with a two-run blast to left field to untie it — 3-1. It was his 27th of the season — tying Damion Easley for the second most homers by a Tigers’ second baseman and one short of Lou Whitaker's season record of 28.
“I had time to tell myself to buckle down and put up a zero,” said Tigers’ starter Michael Fulmer.
It didn’t happen. Fulmer, who had his struggles before the first rain delay, didn’t survive the top of the fourth inning. Neither did the lead.
“He had trouble commanding the ball,” Ausmus said. “His stuff was there. But, after the delay, I was a little reticent to put him back out there, just because of where he’s at with his innings and him being a young player.”
Fulmer said he felt strong after warming up and the delay was only 45 minutes, so Ausmus sent him back out. But he gave up an RBI single to Rajai Davis before leaving. Davis scored on a single by Carlos Santana off reliever Blaine Hardy.
Fulmer slammed his glove when he got back to the dugout.
“Just frustrated that I gave up a couple hits,” he said. “I felt good after the delay and I thought I was going to pitch a little better than that. But they got a couple of base hits in a one-run game and obviously, Brad made the right decision.
“Blaine did a great job. I’ll never go against our manager. He’s done a fantastic job all year. I appreciate all his support and faith and trust. I am just happy we came out on top.”
Fulmer needed to pitch 6 1/3 innings to qualify for the American League ERA title, which he was leading before the game. But he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and six hits.
“I was more worried about a win,” he said. “I’d rather pitch in the postseason than get a personal achievement, honestly. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, you never know. I’m wanting that feeling and this team is wanting that feeling. I hope we can get it done.”
Ausmus said it was not likely he'd use Fulmer in relief over the weekend in Atlanta because, should the Tigers get into the postseason, Fulmer would likely pitch either the play-in game or the wild-card game.
The Tigers were watching the Orioles’ comeback win against the Blue Jays in the clubhouse during the rain delay.
“I wasn’t looking at a TV screen,” Ausmus said. “But I heard the groans.”
Four games left, one game back.