Series reduced to suspenseful farce
It should’ve been a coronation, or a dramatic turn in this World Series. But because of a combination of bad luck, good luck and a shaky late-night performance by Bud Selig, it turned into a combination of suspense and farce.
We have a suspended World Series, folks, and no set day or time for resumption. It’s 2-2 in Game 5, the top of the sixth inning has just concluded, and there’s no telling when a pinch hitter for Cole Hamels will step to the plate.
The forecast for today is awful, which is why Selig refused to announce a resumption time or date—“weather permitting, when the health and welfare of our players are protected as well as they can be,” is how he put it.
So we’re talking about possibly finishing this up Wednesday night, and if the Rays win, Games 6 and 7 will move to Thursday and Friday.
If the Rays hadn’t tied the game in the top of the sixth, Selig said, leaving the Phillies in front by a 2-1 margin, they would’ve thrown on the tarp and delayed the game indefinitely.
“That might have been 24 hours, or 48 hours, or who knows,” Selig said.
That would have been absolutely preposterous, of course. As would have a continuation of the game in those conditions.
What Selig said he wanted to avoid was ending the game off the field. In other words, announcing, after an hour-long delay, “The game is over. The Phillies are world champions!” That would’ve deprived the Philies of their last out, and baseball’s marketers of placing a mound pileup on DVDs and all that.
“This is not a way to end a World Series,” Selig said.
They got a real bad break in that the forecasters were horribly wrong in their prediction. And they got an even bigger break in the top of the sixth.
In a nasty, driving rain, B.J. Upton hit a two-out grounder up the middle that Jimmy Rollins gloved but couldn’t transfer to throw to first base. Then Upton stole second base, nearly falling on his rear end as he slid into second.
Carlos Pena drilled a single to leftfield, and Upton beat Pat Burrell’s throw home by about a foot and a half, tying the game at 2-2.
And with that, Selig had to exhale.
In a development that was absolutely not a shock, the tarp went on as soon as Evan Longoria flied out to centerfield to end the sixth.
The problem came in the storm’s timing. If the conditions had been terrible at the outset, officials could’ve postponed the game altogether.
The rain, light and playable at first pitch, intensified in the top of the fifth inning. When the Rays didn’t score there, the game became official—and the pressure turned on baseball.
Selig and his deputies should thank Tampa Bay reliever Grant Balfour, who came in for Scott Kazmir in the bottom of the fifth—after Kazmir, struggling to get traction on the wet mound, started the inning with walks to Ryan Howard and Burrell—and retired the next three hitters, keeping the difference at one run.
They should thank the Phillies hitters, in general, who reverted to their non-productive ways of this series’ early games. The home team picked up hits in its first two chances with runners in scoring position and then missed on the next five opportunities.
And they should send a box of chocolates to Pena and Longoria, who woke up from a Series-long slumber just in time. The Rays’ third and fourth hitters entered the night a combined 0-for-29, shifted downward to fourth and fifth in Joe Maddon’s revamped lineup. Before Pena drove in Upton with the key sixth-inning run, Pena doubled with one out in the fourth and Longoria pounded a run-scoring single.
Surely, MLB officials are lamenting the fact that the Phillies didn’t throw a retractable dome over this sucker. What a week they’re having! On Saturday night, they dealt with a 91-minute rain delay that pushed Game 3 toward a 1:47 a.m. conclusion. And now this Monday night.
Baseball will be all right now, thanks to the Rays. But the officials should know that, had they not caught that break, they were headed down the wrong path.