Was rainout the Tigers' turning point?

Was rainout the turning point?

The turning point in the Detroit Tigers' postseason appears to be not a walk-off home run, not a game-saving catch, but a rainout.

That seems a bit innocuous, but the numbers never lie. And the circumstances of this particular rainout were not particularly neutral.

Before the rainout of Game 2 of their Division Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, the Tigers had lost six straight games, including the last five of the regular season and the opener of the Division Series. Since the rainout, they have won seven straight; three over the Yanks and then four over the Oakland Athletics. They have been so hot that they are within one victory of tying the record for consecutive postseason wins.

All this from some precipitation in the Bronx? That might seem like a reach, but this was no ordinary rainout.

The start of the game was delayed, even though at the scheduled start time, it was not raining. In fact, for the next three hours, not a great deal of rain fell upon Yankee Stadium. At one point, Major League Baseball officials determined that the game would start at 10 p.m. ET, but then, confronted with forecasts that heavy rain would fall later in the evening and early in the morning, they postponed the game.

Problem. The Yankees were immediately informed of this decision. The Tigers were not. So, while on one hand, the Yankees were back in their clubhouse, preparing to head home, the Tigers' starting pitcher was beginning to warm up, starting to get ready for the start of a game that had already been postponed.

"My club was out on the bench and my pitcher [Justin Verlander] is long-tossing and getting ready to throw in the bullpen," was the way Tigers manager Jim Leyland described the scene. "And my coaches actually noticed -- I didn't really pay that much attention -- but there were no Yankees players, and obviously, [Yankees starter Mike] Mussina wasn't even in the bullpen and they are the home team, and last time I checked, they pitch first. So that obviously sent up a red flag that there was something wrong.

"So there was a miscommunication, and I've got to give Joe Torre credit. I want to make sure that everybody knows that this was not the Yankees' fault. We're not certainly saying that the Yankees got an edge somehow. I don't think the Yankees had anything to do with it. But I've got to give Joe Torre credit. This is the first time in my life that I was ever outmanaged on an off-day."

Leyland got some major laughs out of the "outmanaged" line. And he was quick to say that he did not believe that these circumstances had given the Yankees an advantage.

"First of all, what happened had no bearing on the series," Leyland said. "So make sure that everybody is aware of that and it has no bearing on who wins or loses the series."

But maybe it did have bearing on who won the series, just not in the way anyone expected. The situation -- Yankees inside with the inside information, Tigers literally on the outside -- could give rise, fairly or not, to the impression that preferential treatment was being given to the Yanks. The Yankees were being treated, well, like the Yankees, while the Tigers were being treated like, at best, an afterthought.

The Tigers subsequently had some logistical problems, like having to scramble for hotel rooms. The whole episode could have served to remind them that they were widely viewed as nothing more than convenient first-round victims for the Yankees, who, of course, were obviously on their way to their 27th World Series championship.

The entire episode could have, in other words, given the Tigers an edge. It could have made them just angry enough about their underdog circumstances that it could have improved their focus, their resolve and their overall chances.

While Leyland did make clear in his view that the Yankees were not to blame for the situation, he also said at one point that the Tigers appeared to get "the short end of the stick" in terms of being informed of the postponement in a timely manner.

"I think any time you have a weather condition, there's always a certain amount of confusion, and in some cases, lack of communication," Leyland said the next day before Game 2 was eventually played. "So a lot of that is understandable, and some of it's in most cases 90 percent forgivable and about 10 percent isn't.

"I think it was just a matter of, like I said, we have these weather situations, I mean, you've got to forgive and forget."

Based on Leyland's comments, the Tigers forgave. Based on subsequent events, they did not forget.

Now, there were solid baseball reasons for why the Tigers' fortunes turned. They rallied from a two-run deficit against Mussina, in the actual Game 2. Verlander pitched capably and reliever Joel Zumaya dominated with a fastball reaching 103 mph.

The fact that Kenny Rogers pitched the postseason game of his life in Game 3, made certain that the direction of the Division Series would not be reversed in the Yankees' favor. In the end, the Tigers' pitching was clearly superior to that of the Yankees. There was nothing of the fluke in the Tigers' victory over the Yankees. The team with the superior pitching is supposed to win in the postseason and that was the team from Detroit.

Ditto for the victory over the Oakland Athletics in the AL Championship Series. The Tigers had the better pitching and were richly deserving winners. Throw in the home-run heroics of Magglio Ordonez in Game 4 and you have a sweep.

But the Tigers were inescapably 0-6 before that rainout and are 7-0 since that rainout. They have deserved each and every victory. But the circumstances surrounding that rainout did not hurt. It looked to the world like the Yankees were the favored son, and the Tigers were merely a stepchild. It must have looked the same way to the Tigers.

It reminded them of their decidedly underdog status, a status that many of them have warmed to, at least in their public comments. They did not need added incentive, but there it was, anyway. It definitely seemed strange. Maybe it even seemed funny. But it turned out to be a very good rainout for the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.