Notes: Sizing up Friday's delay
Latest finish in AL history; ruling on Polanco's error reversed
DETROIT -- Most days, the starting pitcher is among the last players to get to the clubhouse. On Saturday, he was among the first.
While Jeremy Bonderman was sitting around the clubhouse 3 1/2 hours before game time with Nate Robertson, who had to throw a side session, the rest of the Tigers didn't have to show up until around 6 p.m. ET. That gave them at least a couple of extra hours of sleep after playing until 3:30 a.m. earlier in the day.
"We're a 3 a.m. team," Kenny Rogers said. "Just back up the start times."
That's a claim very few teams can make.
Though Major League Baseball doesn't keep official records on longest rain delays or latest endings to games, the Society for American Baseball Research does. According to SABR member Phil Lowry, Friday was the latest a game has ended in American League history, beating the previous AL record by 46 minutes.
Seven other games, all in the National League, have lasted past 3 a.m., the latest a 4:40 a.m. close to a July 2, 1993, game between the Padres and Phillies that included three rain delays totaling nearly six hours. The only other game that went later than Friday's contest was a 19-inning affair between the Mets and Braves on July 4, 1985. That game included two rain delays before the Mets finally pulled out a 16-13 win at 3:55 a.m.
Only slightly less rare was the rain delay; Friday was just the sixth in Major League history lasting four hours or more. The record is 7 hours, 23 minutes for a Rangers-White Sox game scheduled for Aug. 12, 1990. That game, originally a 1:35 p.m. start, was finally called at 8:58 p.m. and made up five days later.
The longest delay for a game that wasn't postponed is 5 hours, 45 minutes for a Reds-Brewers game on Oct. 3, 1999. That game, originally a 3:05 p.m. start, had a bearing on the NL Central and Wild Card races, so the umpires waited out the rains before starting the game just before 9 p.m. The Reds won that game, which they eventually needed to force a one-game Wild Card playoff against the Mets a few days later.
Speaking of playoff implications: That was a major motivation behind the umpires waiting to play the game on Friday night/Saturday morning instead of postponing it. In discussing the decision-making process on Saturday, crew chief Rick Reed referred to a memo Major League Baseball issued Friday, directing umpires to get games played without postponements whenever possible.
The directive, Reed said, "came from a higher source than the vice president of umpiring," referring to Mike Port.
Meanwhile, radar images indicated that once the torrential downpours before 7 p.m. passed, they had a 50-50 chance of being hit by the second wave of showers and storms. Rather than have the starting pitchers warm up and sit down again for more rain, the umpires decided to wait until the system passed.
The fact that the heavy rains had flooded roads around the city, including Interstate 75 north of downtown, didn't help matters. Sending a sellout crowd out into a potential traffic mess could be another problem.
Reed understood that point as well as anybody, being a Michigan native who still lives in the Detroit area. His family left around 8:30 p.m. and had to maneuver around the tie-ups.
"Was it a perfect situation? No," Reed said of the decision to play. "Were the managers pleased about it? I believe [Yankees manager Joe] Torre was more vociferous than [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland in his disapproval of starting at 11 o'clock.
"Is that optimum in our point of view as to starting a game at 11 o'clock at night? No, it's not. But due to the information that we received yesterday from our supervisors ... we decided that at 11 o'clock, we had enough of the rain and the heavy stuff moved on, and we had at least two hours and possibly more that we could get the game in. We did that to the letter of the law, I think."
To that effect, Reed added, "I was told by a supervisor today that we handled it the way that baseball had decreed earlier in the day."
That makes Reed feel right about his decision Friday. But how was Reed feeling on Saturday?
"I feel tired and sore," he said with a smile, "probably just like everybody else."
The errorless streak rolls on: What had been Placido Polanco's first error since July 1, 2006, is now Marcus Thames' error. After consulting with replays and first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, official scorer Ron Kleinfelter changed his ruling on Friday's first-inning miscue.
Polanco's throw was wide and in the dirt, but the judgment was that Thames did not have to leave the bag to catch it.
"In my mind, it was a good throw," Wendelstedt said. "A big-league first baseman, 99 out of 100 times, they can pick things in the dirt. They make long stretches. The throw was the last thing on my mind [to judge] during that play."
With that, Polanco's errorless streak is back on. It stood at 148 consecutive games and 734 consecutive chances entering Saturday.
Pudge sits: Ivan Rodriguez had Saturday's game off, but it was because he caught all 11 innings on Friday, not because of his apparent hand injury trying to throw out Melky Cabera in the ninth inning.
Rodriguez said that his hand hit Derek Jeter's bat as he followed through on his throw to second. Replays showed Jeter seemingly leaning out over the plate.
Coming up: Jair Jurrjens (1-1, 3.29) will try to put up another solid performance in his third Major League start when he takes on the Yankees on Sunday afternoon in a 1:05 p.m. ET start. Fellow youngster Phil Hughes (2-1, 4.96) is scheduled to start for New York.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.