A few innings away from winning the World Series, with the nearly unbeatable Cole Hamels on the mound, the Phillies had a soggy rug pulled out from under them by an unlikely alliance of Mother Nature, Bud Selig and the Tampa Bay Rays. The three conspired to suspend Game 5 of the Series at a 2-2 tie -- think of it as a long, possibly really long rain delay -- which probably will cost the Phillies their ace, Hamels, for however long the Series takes to finish.
"It sucks, to be honest with you," closer Brad Lidge said in the Phillies' clubhouse just before midnight. "But what choice do we have?"
Hamels breezed through the first few innings of Game 5, staked to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but when the skies opened up, his game -- like Game 5 in particular, and this Series in general -- began to slip. Carlos Pena nicked him for a one-out double off the right field wall in the fourth and Evan Longoria followed with an RBI single to close the score to 2-1. It was the first hit of the Series for each player.
And then, in the sixth, Hamels gave up a two-out single to B.J. Upton -- it bounced through the soggy infield and off of shortstop Jimmy Rollins' glove -- a stolen base and a 2-2 opposite field single to Pena that tied the score.
After that, with workers furiously trying to keep the field from turning into a virtual quagmire -- and losing that battle -- Selig and the umpires got together to suspend the game until a time it can be completed. When that is, nobody knows. The forecast in Philadelphia for Wednesday calls for a lot of rain until late into the evening. "We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," Selig vowed.
It was, in every sense of the word, a mess for both the Phillies -- who lead the best-of-seven Series, three games to one -- and for Major League Baseball. A haggard Selig faced the press shortly after the game was called at 11:10 p.m. ET and defended his decision to begin the game despite what he called "significant trepidation." He consulted several officials from both teams and three weather forecasting services before deciding to go ahead with the first pitch.
Selig also defended his decision to keep the game going through conditions so bad that the usually sure-handed Rollins, fighting the wind and rain, dropped an easy pop fly and the umpires, after that, refused to call the infield fly rule on another pop-up. The infield fly rule is a judgment call on whether or not the ball can be caught with ordinary effort. And there was nothing ordinary about trying to catch anything on this night.
Selig -- looking at times as uncomfortable as he did on the night he had to call the All-Star Game a tie in Milwaukee in 2002 -- also staunchly refused to consider calling off the game short of playing nine innings. "I would not have allowed the World Series to end this way," Selig said.
The Phillies probably came out on the wrong end of things, baseball-wise -- "It's a disadvantage when you lose Cole after six," Lidge said simply. In addition, had MLB suspended the game after five, the Phils would have carried a one-run lead into Part Two. Of course, the suspension wasn't easy on the Rays, either. At least the Phillies got to go home early Tuesday morning. The Rays already had checked out of their hotel and were forced to move into another one to wait out the delay.
After the rain made the suspension official, as confusion reigned about when the game would be resumed, neither manager was willing to talk much about what happens next. Whatever happens, unless the Series is delayed for several days, it almost certainly will go on without Hamels. That means his dreams of winning the clinching game in a World Series will have to wait for another year.
"It's not the way you want to finish your last start of the year. You kinda have to take it as it goes and, unfortunately, it wasn't in our favor," Hamels admitted. "It's tough. But you're not going to win against Mother Nature."