Rain 2, World Series O: They Try Again Tonight
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; Page E01
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 28 -- Someday soon, presumably, the skies will clear over the mid-Atlantic region, and the rain will stop, and the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays will finally play what amounts to a 3 1/2 -inning shootout-style baseball game that could determine the World Series champion. But, alas, that day was not Tuesday, as Game 5 remained in an extraordinary state of meteorological limbo, and the intrigue surrounding Monday night's stoppage of play deepened.
The first suspended game in World Series history is now scheduled to resume Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, right where they left off Monday night -- with the score tied 2-2 and the Phillies, one win away from their first World Series title in 28 years, preparing to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"We've got 3 1/2 innings of baseball. We get to bat four times; [the Rays] get to bat three," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said. "We are definitely coming with the mind-set that we will win that game, and that's all we want to be focused on."
Major League Baseball had hoped to be able to complete Game 5 on Tuesday night -- previously scheduled as a travel day -- but the same stubborn rain system that caused Monday night's stoppage remained stuck over the region, with the rain in some areas turning to sleet or snow. The decision was made following a series of meetings Tuesday morning and was announced shortly after noon.
"It's just an unfortunate turn of events, weather-wise, but we'll . . . get through it," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said from a hotel in Wilmington, Del., where the team found lodging after checking out of its Philadelphia hotel Monday afternoon in anticipation of a postgame flight home. "And whether it's [Wednesday] or the next day, it's just the way it is. There's no crying about it."
If the Rays win Wednesday night and force a Game 6, it would be Thursday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Game 7, if necessary, would be Friday night.
At approximately 8:37 p.m. Wednesday -- following a half-hour ad from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama -- a Rays pitcher (most likely right-handed reliever Grant Balfour, who pitched the fifth inning Monday night) will take the mound to face a left-handed pinch hitter for the Phillies (either Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins). The weather conditions are expected to be clear but cold and windy, with temperatures dipping into 30s.
Who has the advantage? All signs point to the Rays, who gained not only an emotional boost from having rallied to tie the game with a run in the top of the sixth, just before play was halted, but also the tactical advantage of getting lefty Cole Hamels, the Phillies' ace, out of the game. Hamels, who threw 75 pitches Monday night, is due to lead off in the bottom of the sixth, making it almost certain the Phillies will use a pinch hitter.
"Getting [Hamels] out [of the game] is important. . . . He has been so good, and to scratch out the runs we did has been very difficult," Maddon said. "Of course, their bullpen has been magnificent. . . . Both bullpens are rested, and there's no telling what's going to happen."
While Tuesday provided a day of rest and a chance to plot strategy for Wednesday night's resumption of play, it also invited further scrutiny of what occurred -- and what almost occurred -- during the extraordinary events of Monday night.
Much of the criticism of MLB's handling of the situation focused on the timing of the stoppage, in the middle of the sixth inning -- shortly after Carlos Peña's RBI single tied the game. Playing conditions began to deteriorate rapidly beginning in around the fifth inning, at which point, had it been a regular season game, play almost certainly would have been halted.
However, if the game had been halted in the bottom of the fifth or top of the sixth, with the Phillies ahead by a run, Selig -- who had already decided the game would played to completion, no matter what, and had conveyed that intention to both managers before the game -- would have been forced to utilize his vaguely outlined "best interests of the game" powers to suspend a game that, by rule, would have been over, with the Phillies claiming a rain-shortened victory.
But neither manager informed his players of Selig's intentions to play nine innings regardless, which, in the case of the Rays, had them playing the top of the sixth inning as if it were the ninth, with the possibility of elimination bearing down on them.
"We thought we had to score," Rays left fielder Carl Crawford told reporters. "We thought we'd better do something, or that was going to be it."
By continuing to play until the Rays had tied the game, Selig fed the perception that Major League Baseball was hoping for a tie situation in order to avoid the messy overrule of baseball's official rulebook (a copy of which Selig had under his left arm for much of the night). The Rays' run was set up when B.J. Upton singled off the glove of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, then stole second.
"With a dry field, [Rollins] would get to that ball," said Manuel, clearly still stung by the decision to keep playing in the top of the sixth. "But that said, the people in charge, I felt they did what they had to do. But it doesn't mean that some of the things that happened in the game I had to like."
Asked if he had argued to anyone as the game wore on that the conditions were unplayable, Manuel said, "I didn't say nothing to nobody."