WILMINGTON, Del. — As the dried-off and thawed-out Rays got comfortable at their new temporary home Tuesday, two themes emerged from the soggy chaos of the controversial suspension of World Series Game 5 the night before.
Having rallied in treacherous conditions to tie in the top of sixth, the Rays felt like they'd won the game that was officially tied at 2; and travel director Jeff Ziegler earned a huge save for his efforts to get the team relocated relatively stress-free 26 miles away to Wilmington.
When the Series resumes — at 8:37 tonight, weather permitting, with potential Games 6 and 7 at Tropicana Field pushed back likely to Thursday and Friday — the Rays feel like they have the momentum, and perhaps an edge.
"I think that's given us a huge confidence boost to go in and start the game, hopefully (tonight), and know that we came back," reliever Grant Balfour said. "Now let's take this thing while we have the opportunity."
"We get to play another day, man," reliever J.P. Howell said. "We're in survival mode right now. When we get to play another day anytime, even for a rainout, it feels like a victory."
They have their reasons to be confident they can extend their season tonight in what amounts to a 3½ inning mini-game.
For one, Cole Hamels, the Phillies ace, won't be pitching anymore. "That's a pretty good feeling, obviously," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
For two, the key hitters in the middle of the Tampa Bay lineup, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, on Monday broke their Series 0-fers, with their best at-bats of the week. "That's something that we need," reliever David Price said. "That's the anchor of our offense right there — when those guys are hitting, the other guys usually follow."
As the Rays wake up again today at the plush and historic Hotel du Pont, the largest looming question is whether they'll get to play tonight.
The weather.com Philadelphia forecast calls for some early snow and rain showers that will be ending around the scheduled time for the 188th pitch, and temperatures in the high 30s.
MLB officials are hoping to make a decision by early afternoon, as they did Tuesday in deciding they would have to wait another day.
"We are closely monitoring (today's) forecast and will continue to monitor the weather on an hourly basis," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "We will advise fans as soon as we are able to make any final decisions."
More intriguing is what to expect once the teams do resume, with the score 2-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth. With the Phillies leading the Series 3-1 and on the verge of a championship they badly want to win at home, manager Charlie Manuel tried to put it in simple terms.
"We've got 3½ innings of baseball," he said. "We get to bat four times. They get to bat three. We get 12 outs, and they get nine. And we're definitely coming with the mind-set that we're going to win that game."
But Maddon, who made a rare address to the full team Monday night, framed it a little differently, saying "it's kind of like overtime in a sense, or 'sudden victory' as Curt Gowdy would say. We're almost at that point."
The intrigue could start before the anthem — if there is an anthem — as the Rays will likely warm up the right-handed Balfour, who was in the game, and a lefty, either Howell or rookie David Price, to be ready for whomever the Phillies use to pinch hit for Hamels — likely Geoff Jenkins, Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs, Manuel said.
Both managers said they'd put the game in the hands of their relievers and not use starters in that role. How the teams proceed from there — such as whether to play for one run, to be cautious defensively, etc. — will be a fascinating element to the first suspended game in Series history.
"I think it's going to be every pitch the game is on the line right from jump street," reliever Trever Miller said. "As soon as they say 'Play Ball' again, we're gonna send our best against their best. … I think somebody is going to score one run and it's going to have to hold up."
The Rays got to this position because Pena singled in B.J. Upton, who made a daring dash through the puddle-filled basepaths. They got to Wilmington due to an extraordinary effort — noted by Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman — by Ziegler, who, scrambling Monday night and looking abnormally stressed as players called which clubhouse couches they'd sleep on, endured 20 "No"s and a couple "Is this a joke"s before scoring the 86 rooms they needed, then the indignant question of how they planned on paying the bill (at about $200 per room per night).
"He's going to probably look back on his career and say, 'That was my moment in the sun there,' " Miller said. " 'That was my Letterman moment. That was my Web Gem.' "
Said Ziegler, a former St. Petersburg police officer: "I've had somebody try to hit me with a sledgehammer before. I've wrestled with people for guns and knives. This isn't life or death. I mean, it is important, I realize that, it's the World Series. I can't help these guys win a game, but I would hate like hell to be the person blamed for losing one."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]