By Steve Keating
DETROIT (Reuters) - Rain forced the postponement of Game Four of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, ensuring baseball's most successful franchise staved off post-season elimination for another day.
The Yankees, trailing the best-of-seven series 3-0, arrived at Comerica Park needing a win to extend their season but got a reprieve when a storm rolled into Detroit moving Game Four to a 1607 EST (2007 GMT) start on Thursday.
With the storm approaching, officials initially pushed back the start rather than have to call a rain delay and face a messy finish to a potential series clincher.
Major League Baseball said it made the decision "in an effort to preserve the integrity of an uninterrupted full nine inning game". They said Game Five would be played on Friday if necessary.
Certainly the decision not to start the game was welcomed by the Yankees, who will have ace CC Sabathia, fresh and ready to take to the mound on Thursday.
Had the game started and been interrupted by rain the Yankees might have only gotten a few innings work out of their big lefthander.
Sabathia (2-0, 1.53 ERA) has been one of the few bright spots in a gloomy post-season for the punchless Yankees, who are trying to avoid being swept from a series for the first time in 32-years.
Max Scherzer is expected to remain the Game Four starter for the Tigers.
"It didn't matter to me whether we pitch at 8 or 10," Scherzer told reporters. "We were ready to play.
"It's not frustrating, it's rain. It's just the way it is."
While the Tigers were able to take the postponement in stride, a capacity crowd expecting to see Detroit clinch its first trip to the World Series in six-years left disappointed.
But history remains with the Tigers with the 2004 Boston Red Sox the only team to claw their way back from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series.
The postponement could allow Yankees manager to tinker with his lineup after benching sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson for Wednesday's do-or-die contest.
The Yankees posted the best record in the American League during the regular season but their power-hitting lineup has struggled to score runs during the playoffs, prompting Girardi's reshuffle.
Rodriguez, Major League Baseball's highest-paid player with earnings this season of $29 million, stands fifth on the all-time home run list with 647 but has looked lost since returning after breaking his hand.
"He has struggled against right-handers all season," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"It's obviously gotten worse here in the postseason with the strikeouts, so we're just making an adjustment and hoping it gives us a better shot."
Rodriguez, who has been pinch-hit for and benched previously in the playoffs, has gone 3-for-23 in the postseason.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)