Rain forces Tampa Bay Rays to await fate against Boston Red Sox

BOSTON — The Rays and Red Sox couldn't beat each other or the rain Friday night.

With the score tied 1-1 and the Sox due up in the bottom of the ninth, the game was delayed then suspended with a plan to resume play tonight at 7:10 and the regularly scheduled game to follow 30-45 minutes later.

But that's if they can play tonight as the rain is expected to continue all day and into the night.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was "fine with the call" by umpiring crew chief Brian Gorman to call for the delay when he did, but the timing was certainly not in the Rays' favor.

They had to bat in the top of ninth in difficult conditions with the steady rain falling while the Sox — presumably — will get to hit in their ninth in dry weather.

Plus, Lance Cormier had already taken the mound (and was ruled to be in the game by Gorman even though he wasn't officially announced) to replace Dan Wheeler, who otherwise, in theory, could have kept pitching tonight. And the Sox still have closer Jonathan Papelbon in the game should it go to a 10th inning.

"It's not surprising if that's what you're asking," Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "It's clear. That's the way it goes."

Maddon said he didn't see it that way, and because of who is due up for the Sox — with David Ortiz leading off — he would have switched to Cormier anyway.

"The umpires chose to bang it at the point that they did, and I was good with it," Maddon said. "I'm not worried. That's the uncontrollable part of things. We'll just come out and play it when they tell us to play it, and we'll try to win the game."

It was the first suspended regular-season game in Rays history — though there was the small matter of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and the 46-hour gap until completion.

Maddon called them "very similar kind of nights" and joked the Rays would be flying immediately to Delaware as they had to relocate to Wilmington because there were no hotel rooms available in Philadelphia.

But the players said the conditions for Friday's game — even with the first-pitch temperature of 41, feels-like in the 30s, gusting winds and heavy rainfall starting in the eighth — wasn't as bad.

"Not quite," Evan Longoria said. "And we're in a good spot, tie game and still a chance to win."

The Rays got a solid but abbreviated start from Wade Davis, who allowed only two hits (including Jason Varitek's homer) but lasted only five innings because he threw 104 pitches — including 46 balls — in walking four.

"I was frustrated by only going five," he said. "Walks killed me. A couple pitches got away from me. A couple pitches were close."

And they got two encouraging relief appearances.

Grant Balfour overcame a walk-double start (thanks to a good relay-to-the-plate play by Ben Zobrist, Reid Brignac and Dioner Navarro) to work two strong innings. And struggling lefty Randy Choate made a smartly-managed one-and-done confidence-building appearance, getting J.D. Drew to ground out to open the eighth then getting promptly replaced by Wheeler.

"For both, it was a good moment," Maddon said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Fast facts

The rule

Rule 4.12 (b)

A suspended game shall be resumed and completed as follows:

(1) Immediately preceding the next scheduled single game between the two clubs on the same grounds.

Rain forces Tampa Bay Rays to await fate against Boston Red Sox 04/17/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 17, 2010 1:35am]

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