NEW YORK – There's a sign on the outfield wall of the little ballpark across the street from Yankee Stadium.
In white letters, it reads, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains."
On a day such as this one, when clouds are slung over the Bronx like steel hammocks, and a ballgame is delayed 23½ hours because the place is swamped, there's whimsy in those words.
The game comes to you. Except when it doesn't.
Which is to say, a lot of this stuff is such dumb luck.
The New York Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers on Friday and Saturday nights, 9-3, at Yankee Stadium in the first game of this American League Division Series, which began with the national anthem and ended with a Mariano Rivera(notes) cutter about 27 hours later.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova(notes), technically appearing in relief of CC Sabathia(notes), was brilliant when he wasn't pelting plate umpire Tony Randazzo (who apparently arrived at the game with a magnet in his cup) with 58-foot sliders, and Robinson Cano(notes) had three hits, including a grand slam, and six RBIs.
So, ultimately, the Yankees roll into Sunday's Game 2 having beaten Justin Verlander(notes) and Doug Fister(notes) in Game 1, or at least having beaten Fister and not having lost to Verlander in Game 1, which wasn't insignificant.
What made Saturday night in the Bronx, however, was the notion of "sometimes it rains." Not in the literal sense, though there was some of that, too, but in the feeling that no good intention would pass unpunished.
While the Yankees were being the Yankees, forcing extra pitches and endeavoring to inch innings along, plotting for the big moment, the Tigers were doing their thing, too. They were pitching. They put some guys on base. They ran one of their own into a bad out at the plate.
Along came the sixth inning.
For the Tigers, this would be the "sometimes you lose" part, which closely followed, "sometimes it rains."
The Yankees had scored a two-out run in the fifth inning and led, 2-1. It felt for everything like the critical run of the night. Of two nights.
Then, in the top of the sixth, Austin Jackson(notes), the Tigers' leadoff hitter, drew a bases-empty walk. Now, in a 14-team league, Detroit was 14th in stolen bases. Jackson was going to steal second and the Tigers would have two, maybe three, shots to get him home. They'd singled twice against Nova the inning before. This, by definition, was a very bad walk for Nova, and a very good one for the Tigers. This might change everything.
"I wasn't really sure when to go," Jackson said. "But, it was one of those situations, you kinda gotta try."
Two strikes, Jackson figured, maybe a breaking ball, maybe one of those pitches Nova had bounced all night, maybe that would buy him a step or two.
"I hoped I could get into scoring position," he said.
Ordonez no longer could allow Jackson a pitch. As Jackson burst from first base, Ordonez hit the kind of ball he hits a lot, over the pitcher's mound, across the grass and toward center field.
It was perfect. Except that because the pitch was a strike, and because Ordonez hit it, and because Jackson was running, Yankees second baseman Cano was standing on second base.
"There's nothing you can do about that," Jackson said.
The easiest double play you ever saw.
"Definitely," Jackson said, "a big moment."
For the Yankees, this would be the "sometimes you win" part, when the runs come like they're the "sometimes it rains," only on the front end of a Nor'easter.
In the bottom of the sixth, nine of them batted. Fister walked his first two batters in three weeks, both with first base open, one that began with a two-strike count.
With runners at first and second and one out, he coaxed a grounder to shortstop Jhonny Peralta(notes), only the ball was hit too softly – or Peralta lacked the nerve – for a double play. He went to first base instead.
"I really wanted to bounce the curveball," Fister said.
Gardner didn't know what was coming, but assumed it would be near the strike zone.
Fister hung that curveball.
"If I rolled over to second base, which I was eight or 10 feet from doing," Gardner said, "it'd be a completely different ballgame."
Instead, Gardner's ball took the general path Ordonez's had, through the middle, and two runs scored.
Wouldn't you know, three pitches later, Gardner spotted himself a 1-and-2 pitch, this one to Derek Jeter(notes), and Gardner sprinted to second. Jeter, as he does, did not lead the second baseman to the bag, but poked a spinner through the right side.
The inning survived, pushed onward to Cano, to the bases loaded, to Tigers manager Jim Leyland calling for right-handed reliever Al Albuquerque, and to a one-strike slider that Cano hit into the second deck in right field.
To a Yankees win, so the Tigers lose, in there among the rain.
"That's baseball," Miguel Cabrera observed. "You know? That's baseball."
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