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Tigers to play makeup Monday, if needed

Thursday's home finale in Detroit postponed by inclement weather
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers and Indians waited all day Thursday for a chance to wrap up their series at Comerica Park. The rain never let up.

By the end of the day, it was a rare amount of rain falling around downtown Detroit. The resulting postponement sets up a potentially crazy stretch of games for the Tigers, depending on the American League Wild Card race.

Full Game Coverage

DETROIT -- The Tigers and Indians waited all day Thursday for a chance to wrap up their series at Comerica Park. The rain never let up.

By the end of the day, it was a rare amount of rain falling around downtown Detroit. The resulting postponement sets up a potentially crazy stretch of games for the Tigers, depending on the American League Wild Card race.

Full Game Coverage

The game will be made up at 1 p.m. ET on Monday if it carries postseason implications, either for Detroit in the Wild Card race or Cleveland for postseason seeding. Given the status of the races, there's a good chance it will.

As a result of a clarification that became effective for this season, Major League Baseball requires all 162 games to be played if a game impacts seeding/home-field advantage for the postseason. If a game would have no impact on seeding/home-field advantage, then it would not be required to be played.

If a game proves necessary in any way -- for either club or for seeding purposes -- then it will be rescheduled for Monday.

The Tigers are 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles and Blue Jays, who are both tied for the top spot, in the AL Wild Card race. Unless Toronto's or Baltimore's lead widens to 1 1/2 games at end of play Sunday, or Detroit goes up multiple games by sweeping Atlanta while the O's and Jays lose out, then the club will have to play Monday.

Meanwhile, Cleveland trails Boston by a half-game for the AL's second-best record, meaning the Indians would open the AL Division Series at the Red Sox if the season ended today. That, too, would necessitate a makeup game if the Tribe ends the season within a game either way of a seed change.

If Cleveland is a half-game behind Texas or Boston for seeding purposes after Sunday's game, there would be no point in playing a makeup game, because both Texas and Boston hold tiebreakers over Cleveland. However, if Cleveland is a half-game ahead of either of those teams after Sunday's games, then Cleveland would have to play at Detroit on Monday -- and win the game in order to preserve home field in that scenario. That's a result of Cleveland being third for tiebreaking purposes behind Texas and Boston.

With that in mind, the implications of Thursday's game were massive, which is why they waited so long through so much rain to try to play.

Video: CLE@DET: Rain postpones Tigers' home finale

First pitch was scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET, but the combination of ongoing rain and flooding downtown quickly rendered that a non-option. Several Tigers players struggled to get to the ballpark with many of the freeways closed near downtown. Many Indians players were scrambling for cabs from their suburban Detroit hotel after one of the team buses was canceled.

Once players arrived, they encountered a soggy field and flooded dugouts. Pitchers leapt over puddles to reach the outfield for pregame throwing sessions.

More than six inches of rain fell on Comerica Park over the past 24 hours, the Tigers announced. The rain stopped for a brief while around late afternoon, but when managers Brad Ausmus and Terry Francona joined crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt and head groundskeeper Heather Nabozny in a walking inspection of the outfield, it was still too damp, despite a drainage system that normally clears water quickly.

"It couldn't have taken any more water at all," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "At that point we were a little iffy, like it was soft. With the forecast coming, it was going to be tough."

With the regular season in its final days, the decision to play or postpone was in the hands of Major League Baseball. With the only option for a makeup date coming on Monday, the day after the scheduled end of the regular season, MLB waited as long as reasonably possible for a chance to play.

The four-hour, 13-minute delay was 12 minutes longer than the previous Comerica Park record from 2007. Rain stopped again shortly after that, but the window wasn't expected to last long enough for the grounds crew to prepare the field and play at least five innings for an official game.

If the game is played Monday, tickets for Thursday's game will be honored, with no exchange if necessary. If the game is not made up, or if fans are unable to attend, they can exchange unused tickets at any time for a non-premium regular season game to be played within the next 12 months, not including Opening Day.

Both teams travel Thursday night for weekend series on the road -- Detroit at Atlanta, Cleveland at Kansas City. The rainout leaves the Tigers facing a potentially adventurous travel scenario. That includes the potential of playing at Atlanta on Sunday, heading back to Detroit for a makeup game on Monday, a potential Wild Card tiebreaker at Baltimore or Toronto on Tuesday, a Wild Card Game somewhere on Wednesday, then a Division Series opener somewhere on Thursday.

That would be five games in five days in five cities. If three teams tie for the second Wild Card spot, the schedule is even more complicated.

"I'm aware of it," Ausmus said, "but one thing at a time. If that's the scenario, then that's a good thing. That's a good problem to have."

Thursday's postponement pushes back Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann in the Tigers' rotation. Norris, who was scheduled to start Thursday, will instead pitch Friday's series opener at Atlanta, followed by Zimmermann on Saturday and Justin Verlander on Sunday.

No starter has been announced for Monday's makeup, but the Tigers have the option of starting Michael Fulmer, who pitched against the Indians on Wednesday and would be available on normal rest. He would need three innings to be eligible for the AL ERA title.

The Indians, meanwhile, pushed back starting pitcher Ryan Merritt to Friday's series opener at Kansas City, followed by Trevor Bauer on Saturday and Josh Tomlin on Sunday.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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