ST. LOUIS -- As the rain fell in sheets and the Busch Stadium field essentially became a sponge, the Kansas City Royals could only sit and fret that their eight-game losing streak might stretch to nine on an obscure technicality.
However, Joe West's umpiring crew opted to wait out a four-hour, 32-minute delay, and the Royals were the beneficiaries.
Kansas City's three-run, ninth-inning rally before and after a marathon thunderstorm held up, enabling the Royals to claim a 4-2 decision over the St. Louis Cardinals in a game that ended at 3:14 a.m. CDT on Friday.
Jeff Francoeur's leadoff homer off Mitchell Boggs (0-3) tied the score, and Eric Hosmer's bases-loaded, two-run double was the winning blow as the Royals (22-29) avoided getting swept in a four-game series between the Missouri rivals.
Shortly after Hosmer chopped his hit over first baseman Allen Craig, the cloudy skies unleashed torrents of moisture. Had West, the crew chief, opted to end the game, Kansas City's comeback would have been erased.
Under a rule change enacted before this season to specifically cover the last regular-season meeting between teams, the Cardinals (35-18) would have won because the score would have reverted back to the last complete inning, when they led 2-1.
"We were real worried," Francoeur admitted. "We owe Joe a lot of credit. It would have been unfair to the team if they had canned the last inning. Joe was great about it."
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak repeatedly pleaded their case to West as the grounds crew poured bag after bag of Diamond Dry on the field. At one point, West simply walked away from Mozeliak.
Matheny was clearly steamed that West decided to resume play.
"I thought it was bad," Matheny said of the field conditions. "I thought the grounds crew did a tremendous job. To me, it comes down to one of our guys possibly getting hurt. That's a big deal."
West, whose crew works the Arizona Diamondbacks-Chicago Cubs series that starts Friday at 1:20 p.m. CDT at Wrigley Field, told a pool reporter that umpires are directed to make every possible effort to play the final game of a season series to completion.
"We worry about that (next) game when we get to that one," he said of the next assignment. "We had to worry about this game tonight. The field conditions were bad, and the grounds crew did everything they could to get the field playable. And they did a great job."
Matheny said that the Cardinals stayed in constant contact with Major League Baseball officials but didn't file a protest.
"It was a bizarre night," he said.
Louis Coleman (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win, and Greg Holland earned his eighth save with a 1-2-3 ninth, all on routine grounders.
The result spoiled another dominant debut for another Cardinal rookie pitcher. Highly touted Michael Wacha allowed just two hits and one run over seven efficient innings, fanning six and walking none.
The crowd of 43,916 waited out a one-hour rain delay for Wacha's first big-league pitch, and the fans weren't disappointed. Mixing a fastball that topped out at 96 mph with a changeup in the low to mid 80s, Wacha mowed down the first 13 Kansas City hitters he faced, fanning four.
Lorenzo Cain ended any thoughts of a debut perfecto with a one-out double to left-center in the fifth, then scored on Elliot Johnson's two-out single to right that cut St. Louis' lead to 2-1.
The Cardinals (35-18) scored both of their runs in the first with two outs off Jeremy Guthrie. Craig beat out an infield single to score Matt Carpenter, moved to second on Yadier Molina's hit and rode home on David Freese's single.
However, the Cardinals stranded seven runners in the first four innings and two more in the seventh, failures which finally would haunt them at a late, late hour.
"We wanted this one bad," Francoeur said. "It was well worth the wait."
NOTES: To make room for Wacha, St. Louis demoted RHP Michael Blazek to Triple-A Memphis and reassigned LHP Jaime Garcia from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Blazek was on the roster for four days but didn't get into a game. Garcia is out for the year after undergoing rotator cuff and labrum surgery last week ... As it worked on the field, the grounds crew got some help from Royals LF Alex Gordon, who lugged at least one bag of Diamond Dry out to the playing surface. ... The ninth-inning rain delay was the longest in a major league game since the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers waited 5 hours and 47 minutes to start a game on Oct. 3, 1999, the last day of the regular season.