PHILADELPHIA – The World Series went another day trapped in the sixth inning of Game 5.
As rain and chilly temperatures rendered Citizens Bank Park unplayable again, commissioner Bud Selig pushed the continuation of the Philadelphia Phillies' potential clincher to 8:37 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Scattered by the weather and its consequences, the Phillies awoke in their homes still perhaps three innings from their first World Series title in 28 years. The Tampa Bay Rays were 30 minutes from the ballpark in a Wilmington, Del., hotel, arranged only as the rain intensified Monday night. They'd intended to return to Tampa early Tuesday morning, either to prepare for Game 6 or pack for the offseason.
Instead, the series and its teams enjoyed/fretted through what Rays manager Joe Maddon compared to a snow day – no game, no travel, only voluntary workouts to fill the hours, revealing with a chuckle he was eager to get out of the hotel and walk around "if the wind dies down." Even scheduling the game for Wednesday night is a tentative stab at conditions something close to minimally acceptable.
"Whether it's [Wednesday] or the next day, it's just the way it is," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There's no crying about it."
By the time they resume, Charlie Manuel will have had two days – at least – to decide on a pinch hitter to lead off the sixth inning (Cole Hamels' spot), and that long to choose a pitcher for the top of the seventh. So, left-handed hitters Geoff Jenkins, Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs are on alert, as are the likes of relievers Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson.
"We come to the ballpark [Wednesday] we're concentrating on winning, winning the ballgame," Manuel said. "That's all that's important to us, that's all we think about. And we've got 3½ innings of baseball. We get to bat four times, they get to bat three. We get 12 out and they get nine. Like we are definitely coming with the mindset that we will win that game and that's all we want to be focused on. And I feel like that our team will feel the same way. I'll go around tomorrow and talk to all of our players and get a feel for what they're playing, and we'll get eye-to-eye and make sure that we're ready to go."
The decision to play Game 5 despite an approaching storm appears to have favored the Rays, who were up against the conditions, potential elimination and Hamels, the Phillies' ace. The rain delay – now headed to a second day – washed out the conclusion of Hamels' start (he'd thrown 75 pitches). The Rays already were into their bullpen, Grant Balfour having replaced Scott Kazmir two batters into the bottom of the fifth inning.
"Getting him out is important," Maddon said of Hamels. "Us coming back like we did and sitting on it for a day could be to our benefit."
Manuel said he'd intended to pitch Hamels at least one more inning, and maybe two more.
The Phillies lead the series, three games to one. Game 5 is tied, 2-2, after 5½ innings, which is where Selig and his umpiring crew and meteorologists left it late Monday night, amid pools of water and much second-guessing as to whether the game should have started in a light rain and under a dire forecast. Despite the downpour and the deteriorating conditions, the Rays scored a two-out run in the sixth – Carlos Pena singled home B.J. Upton from second.
The forecast for Tuesday night was for rain – and, possibly, sleet and snow – until late evening. MLB announced Tuesday's postponement just after 1 p.m.
"While obviously we want to finish Game Five as soon as possible, the forecast for today does not allow for us to continue the game this evening," Selig said in a statement. "We are closely monitoring [Wednesday's] forecast and will continue to monitor the weather on an hourly basis. We will advise fans as soon as we are able to make any final decisions with respect to [Wednesday's] schedule."
Wednesday is expected to be cold and wet with a possible break later in the afternoon. If the Rays were to win Game 5 Wednesday, Game 6 would be played Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
The Rays will leave the game in the hands of their bullpen, rather than come back with a starter, such as James Shields, who is rested. Manuel said the Phillies will do the same.
Meantime, the events of Monday night were batted around over separate conference calls with Maddon and Manuel, neither of whom was strongly dissatisfied with the decisions leading to the game's suspension. They agreed the game should have started when it did, agreed the conditions became entirely too sloppy for baseball (and an inning or two before the umpires did), and that it should have been stopped and eventually played in its entirety.
By the time Selig shut down the game, the Rays had pushed across that run in the top of the sixth, meaning the Rays did bat and the Phillies did defend for a half-inning in which the playing surface was borderline unplayable. The bottom of the sixth presumably will be played on a drier field, and you can take your pick as to where that advantage might lie.
As the arguments go, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins perhaps completes the play on Upton's two-out grounder, rather than losing his grip just off the infield and fumbling the ball. Instead, Upton stole second and scored on Pena's hit. And, if the ball and field were drier, perhaps Pat Burrell charges that hard-hit ball and makes a better throw to the plate, ahead of Upton rather than just late. And, perhaps, Hamels has a firmer grip on the baseball and approaches those at-bats differently.
Conversely, Upton stood in that same driving rain and hit the ball hard. He stood on that same mucky infield and stole second base. And then he scored, teetering around third as though on roller skates, on a ball Pena hit hard off Hamels.
"I was trying to tell myself to stay up," Upton said.
So they stand between the top and bottom of the sixth, all of them. The started the game and slogged through it, until someone told them to stop. They'll pick it up from there when someone tells them to pick it up again. The game never should have started, but it did. Television companies never should choose the schedule or the start times, but they do.
That left part of a game still to be played. Someday.
"All year long we've been in a situation where we can control our destiny," Manuel said. "And it's no different. It's up to us to stay focused on tomorrow's game, to win that game. And if something happens and if we don't get the job done or something, I have no complaints at all, because it's in our hands, it's all up to us to do it."