Rain hurts Yankees more than Tigers

Gonzalez: Rain hurts Yankees more than Tigers

NEW YORK -- When Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Tigers and Yankees was officially suspended, CC Sabathia had thrown 27 pitches. That's hardly anything for a horse like CC. It's a light bullpen session, barely more than the amount Justin Verlander needed to get through a rocky first inning on Friday night.

But it was more than that.

It was the 50-some-odd pitches Sabathia threw in an extended side session to get ready for his first start in nine days, the throwing he did with Jesus Montero in the bowels of Yankee Stadium 15 minutes after the rain delay began in the middle of the second inning, the heat he applied to his elbow when it looked like things would start back up, and the fact he shut it down when the game was called for the night after a 77-minute delay.

That means Sabathia isn't expected to pitch until, at the very earliest, Game 3 in Detroit on Monday.

And that means the best shot the Yankees have in their rotation will only be able to pitch one time in this first-round series.

"One, and an inning and a half," manager Joe Girardi said while correcting a reporter, just before letting out a playful laugh.

But nothing about this unavoidable situation is particularly funny. Not for the fans, who (at least for the moment) were denied a superb pitching matchup pitting Sabathia against Verlander.

And especially not for the Yankees.

It was obvious that they came into this series without any clear answers behind Sabathia. So Girardi went with a three-man staff to maximize CC, and heading into the playoffs, things were set up perfectly -- CC was rested, and he was coming off a year that didn't require him to pitch on short rest at any point.

Now it looks like the rest of that Yankees rotation really needs to step up.

"I'm confident in our guys," Sabathia said. "[Ivan] Nova's had a great year, Freddy [Garcia has] pitched well. I don't want to sit here and say if I don't pitch we don't win, because we've been doing it all year."

It's not that the Yankees can't win if CC doesn't pitch twice in a series. But it sure is a lot more difficult.

Game 1 will resume at 8:37 p.m. and pick up where Friday's action left off -- with a 1-1 tie heading into the bottom of the second. Barring more rain -- and that's certainly a possibility -- the two teams will play four games in four days and won't get a workout day until Wednesday.

The Tigers will go with Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Verlander, Rick Porcello and Fister again, in that order. Girardi announced he'll do something similar, pitching Nova as scheduled on Saturday and going with Garcia on Sunday. The rest is undecided, but Girardi's stance on not pitching CC on Sunday pretty much is.

"I don't think that's the right thing to do, just because you're talking about a really heavy bullpen," Girardi said, referring to the pregame side session Sabathia took part in. "I mean, this is more than a bullpen. And it's just not the right thing to do."

But it may be the necessary thing to do.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was only going to have Verlander in two games if this series went the maximum five, a luxury afforded to him because Fister has been so good since coming over before the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- leading the AL in ERA and ranking second to Verlander in wins since the start of August.

The Yankees don't have a No. 2 like Fister. Nova has been great and is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, but the verdict is still out on how he'll react to his first crack at the postseason, and whether he can beat the essentially unbeatable Fister.

Unless Girardi changes his mind about the schedule for Sabathia, the Yankees will need a fourth starter in this series. And if that's the case, that man would likely be A.J. Burnett.

Still, CC said he'll present his case to Girardi about pitching Game 2 on Sunday.

"I want the ball as much as possible," Sabathia added. "Like I said, we just have to wait and see. We'll see what happens."

Sabathia is a horse. He sometimes prefers to pitch on short rest, and he said if the game would have resumed, he would have been back out pitching -- no matter how long the rain delay lasted.

"It's just that time of year," Sabathia said. "I would've been very upset if we would've started the game and I wouldn't have been back out there."

The question must be asked whether this game should've started at all, considering so much rain came down so soon. But neither manager had any complaints after the fact. And Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said the weather caught them by surprise.

"We're not going to start a game if we had a forecast of rain, whether it was CC or Justin or two other guys, because it certainly isn't fair to either club," Torre, the former Yankees skipper, said. "Our forecast was light, intermittent showers. Nothing was threatening, except until late tonight, and obviously that forecast changed and we came up with the result that we did."

The result is crushing to fans who wanted to see an epic pitching duel, but there's a pretty good chance they get it in Game 3 on Monday.

It's a lot more crushing to the Yankees.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.