ARLINGTON, Texas – No more watching for Justin Verlander. The Detroit Tigers’ ace is back on his normal routine to start the A.L. championship series opener.
Verlander will pitch against defending American League champion Texas on regular rest tonight. It’ll be the fifth day after his Game 3 start in the A.L. division series that was a restart of sorts since rain halted the series opener of aces after only 11/2 innings.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was steadfast in sticking with the decision not to use his 24-game winner in the clinching game of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on Thursday night, even though Verlander volunteered to pitch in relief and the manager joked with the big right-hander about doing so during the 3-2 victory.
“It was definitely a little odd situation we ran into. But that’s behind us,” Verlander said Friday. “It was definitely tough (watching). Any time that you know you’re not going to have anything to do with the outcome of the game, it’s difficult.
“It’s just like being a fan, except there’s a little bit more in it for me personally, being on the team.”
The Tigers look to Verlander for an early boost in the ALCS, where Texas has home-field advantage for finishing one game better during the regular season after both teams played well down the stretch.
“Obviously, that was important for him starting Game 1 for us,” catcher Alex Avila said. “You can’t ask for anything more.”
The Rangers, in their second consecutive ALCS after having never won a postseason series before last year, counter with C.J. Wilson.
The left-hander won 16 games in the regular season, but he allowed eight runs (six earned) in five innings in losing the playoff opener against Tampa Bay on Sept. 30, the same day the initial matchup between Verlander and CC Sabathia got wet.
“That particular game was my first bad game I had in a while. I had of lot of really good games leading up to the playoffs,” Wilson said. “It was unfortunate. I had extra rest. … I feel like it gives me a chance to get back in my routine and execute.”
Texas won three consecutive games against the Rays to wrap up that series Tuesday. The Rangers then had a day off before working out at home Thursday while waiting to see who and where they would play the ALCS opener.
The Tigers had to play late into Thursday night at Yankee Stadium to win, then celebrated before heading to Texas. Their manager would have preferred to give his team a day off Friday.
“We’re still winding down. We probably wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t mandatory,” said Leyland, who had only been in bed for about a half-hour before his phone started ringing at 8 a.m. “There’s emotional hangovers. Not the hangovers maybe you guys think there may be.”