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World Series: For Tampa Bay Rays, Game 5 isn't that miserable

PHILADELPHIA — If you are a traditionalist, you may believe that baseball did the right thing. Eventually.

If you are a romantic, you can imagine that the Tampa Bay Rays have just received one more bit of fortune in their wonderful story. Magically.

And if you are a Phanatic, you can feel free to worry that Bud Selig has extended the black cloud over Philadelphia for a little bit longer. Accursedly.

The World Series has another day to endure the elements after Game 5 — and a possible Phillies celebration — was suspended because of rain at 10:40 Monday night. Accursedly.

For a game that didn't finish, there were a lot of viewpoints to the 2-2 deadlock between the Rays and Phillies that could last for days. When the contest is continued, it will be in the bottom of the sixth, but no one seems sure when that will be. Selig, the commissioner, talked about "a day or two or three." He even threatened keeping Tampa Bay here "until Thanksgiving," which was awful.

Still, if you had begun to say last rites over the prone body of the Rays, why golly, that was a toe that just twitched!

And just like that, this wasn't such a miserable night for the Rays after all.

Let's admit it. For a while, the only explanation for why the World Series was being played was Selig must be a fan of House.

Why else would a major sport play a game of its championship series on a night such as this? There was rain, and wind, and cold. For a while, it looked as if a World Series game was being played in an Alaskan car wash. The infield was muddy, and the grass was wet, and baseball was in the middle of embarrassing itself, an endeavor at which it never seems to tire.

By the time the game was called, you had to wonder what had taken officials so long. Unless you are a fan of the Rays. It's a swell thing that baseball wants its championship games to be played a full nine innings. On the other hand, this should have been called in the fourth.

That said, continuing to play might have been the best thing that has happened to the Rays in this Series. If they were to somehow salvage this season, someone should save a glass of the infield muck for the trophy case.

Consider the situation as the sixth began. The Rays were behind in the game, the Series and the weather report. The rain was falling in sheets, and the flags were standing straight out toward rightfield, and it was colder than the taxman's heart. Cole Hamels, the guy the Phillies consider invulnerable, was on the mound. If the Grim Reaper weren't scared to death of pneumonia, he might have been perched on the scoreboard.

Every time the cameras focused on a batter, he looked as if he was batting in a shower. Every time they showed a base runner's cleats, he was up to the ankle in muck. The warmup jackets were slick with rain, and even those cute little earmuffs on the caps didn't seem to help the players. Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir had trouble with his cleats from the gunk on the mound.

Yeah, you play football in this. You even run an Iditarod. You wouldn't even mud wrestle on a night like this. As for a World Series game? For crying out loud, why? Doesn't Major League Baseball think more of its sport than that? After a while, isn't someone concerned about the players' safety? Is the love of ad revenues so great? (Check that. It's a silly question.)

Still, glory be, the rain seemed to have awakened the Rays.

In the end, the awful weather — and the horrible decision to continue in it — might have been the best thing that could have happened to Tampa Bay. Who knew that a team that played in the comfort of a dome was made up of a bunch of mudders?

Take B.J. Upton, for instance. With two out in the sixth, Upton hit a hard ground ball through the slop to shortstop. He probably would have beaten it out anyway — it was scored a single — but Jimmy Rollins couldn't get a grip on the ball.

As he led off first, Upton looked as if he was running the bases in the Everglades. Despite the sloppy footing, he stole second, and when he slid, he looked like a kid on a Slip n' Slide. And then Carlos Pena — whose bats were evidently too dry before Monday — had his second hit of the night to drive in Upton.

"I saw the slide on replay,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "It kind of looked like some kind of finish of a horse race with the hooves kicking up the dirt and the mud at the same time.''

Just like that, the Rays had new life. They are tied in Game 5, and Hamels was out of the game. Assuming the weather ever clears up, the Rays have a solid shot at getting the Series back to Tampa Bay.

"I don't think it hurt us,'' Rays owner Stu Sternberg said. "Anything that sort of upsets the balance of nature seems to help us. When you're the perennial underdog, you like oddities thrown your way.''

For Philadelphia fans, this has to feel a little ominous. It has been 25 seasons since any of the four major-league teams have won a title. And yes, the thought of this opportunity being washed away has occurred to the locals.

For the Rays, they live another day. For them, all things considered, that made the day perfectly lovely.

World Series: For Tampa Bay Rays, Game 5 isn't that miserable 10/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 11:11pm]
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