ARLINGTON, Texas — A few minutes past midnight, the Texas Rangers had one more victory over Justin Verlander – and the Detroit Tigers lost yet another wet playoff opener started by their ace.
"If anywhere in the country has a drought, just bring me in and I'll fix that," Verlander said after the Rangers beat him 3-2 Saturday night in Game 1 of the AL championship series opener.
Before the game was interrupted twice by rain for a total of 1 hour, 50 minutes in the top of the fifth inning, Nelson Cruz broke a postseason slump with a home run and the defending AL champions scored all of their runs off Verlander. His final pitch came long before the last out was made at 12:03 a.m. CDT.
"He's throw 100 miles an hour. You're just up there battling against a guy like that," David Murphy said. "We didn't have a lot of hits against him, but our at-bats were awesome. We were having five-, six-, seven-pitch at bats. We got hits when we needed to, and the bullpen made it stand up."
Murphy had an RBI triple and scored on Ian Kinsler's single in the second, and Cruz had a leadoff homer in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Texas faced Verlander only once during the regular season, a 2-0 Rangers' win on April 11 when Verlander lost despite pitching a six-hitter.
The likely AL Cy Young Award winner was 24-5 during the regular and had been 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three previous career starts at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark, allowing three runs in 21 innings. Texas matched that run total in four innings when it counted most.
"I just didn't have it. My location wasn't very good at all," Verlander said.
"He didn't really have his curveball going for strikes," manager Jim Leyland said. "He had a tough time with it. I think probably trying to overthrow it a little bit."
In between the delays, Austin Jackson doubled in a run and scored on a wild pitch by Rangers starter C.J. Wilson. Alexi Ogando, who got all three of the Rangers' regular-season wins over Detroit this year, pitched two scoreless innings for the victory. Neftali Feliz, clocked at up to 101 mph, worked the ninth for his fourth save this postseason.
Game 2 is Sunday night. Derek Holland starts for Texas against Max Scherzer, who pitched 1 1-3 innings in relief for the Tigers in their AL division series clincher Thursday night against the New York Yankees.
Verlander threw one inning and 25 pitches in the division series opener at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 30 when that game was suspended by rain. Under a rules change adopted two years ago, postseason games are suspended when called instead of being cut short or wiped out.
Verlander came back and started Game 3, winning as he threw 120 pitches with 11 strikeouts over eight innings.
He threw 82 pitches in four innings against the Rangers before the first delay. He struck out five, including Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre in the first without allowing a run after his only two walks.
Leyland planned for Verlander to stay in after the first delay. That changed during the second delay, which lasted 1:09.
"That was a no brainer," Leyland said. `I think that this was a little bit of a weird night, obviously."
Cruz was in an 0-for-10 postseason slump before his drive to left for his Rangers-record seventh postseason homer, one more than two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez.
"Definitely important to get it going," Cruz said. "As soon as I hit the homer, I thought it should be good enough, the way C.J. was throwing."
Mike Napoli had a leadoff single in the second for the Rangers, in their second consecutive ALCS after never winning a postseason series before last year. He scored when Murphy got the head of his bat on a low pitch and pulled it into the right-center gap, where the ball one-hopped the wall.
But before the fifth inning, Rangers Ballpark groundskeeper Dennis Klein went out and spoke with plate umpire Tim Welke about the weather.
After Ramon Santiago led off the fifth with a double and while Brandon Inge was batting with a 1-0 count against Wilson, play was stopped for 41 minutes. When the game resumed, the teams got only 13 minutes in before the tarp came out again.
The rain delays were the first at Rangers Ballpark since May 24. This season was played during one of the hottest and driest summers ever in North Texas, including 27 games when the temperature was 100 degrees or more at first pitch.
Wilson, who had thrown 72 pitches before the first delay, made 24 more during the short resumption.
On the first pitch after play resumed, Inge grounded out. Jackson followed with a double that rolled into a puddle by the wall in right-center field and scored Santiago. Jackson eventually scored on a wild pitch while Wilson loaded the bases on three walks before heavy rain started falling again.
Michael Gonzalez replaced Wilson after the second delay and needed only two pitches to induce an inning-ending groundout by Alex Avila.
Ogando, a reliever-turned-starter back in the bullpen in the playoffs, struck out three over the sixth and seventh innings.
"What a weapon to have," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Santiago led off the ninth with a bunt single before Feliz struck out the next three batters.
Rick Porcello, Detroit's scheduled Game 4 starter, had two scoreless innings after replacing Verlander. Leyland said the Tigers could alter their planned rotation.
Wilson escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first when Magglio Ordonez hit a chopper over third base. Adrian Beltre stepped on the bag and threw across the diamond for an inning-ending double play.
"C.J. made a great pitch on Magglio, cut a fastball in," Leyland said. "That was obviously a huge inning. The ninth inning we always talk about, but tonight's game might have been the first."
NOTES: This was the ninth one-run game already in this postseason, the most since there were 11 two years ago, according to STATS LLC. ... Jackson, who was born and still lives in nearby Denton, had a tough start. After striking out on three pitches opening the game, he struggled with a wind-blown flyball in the bottom of the first. He went back, came in a few steps and the ball hit off the heel of Jackson's glove as Elvis Andrus reached second on the error.