Who’s up for all postseason games being three innings long?
Major League Baseball finally stumbled on a way to get people to stop whining about postseason games ending so late. The three-inning conclusion to Game 5, suspended by rain Monday night, took a tidy one hour, 18 minutes Wednesday, and when it was over the Philadelphia Phillies had won the World Series.
That left a lot of the evening for celebrating in Philadelphia. Someone should check on the place.
One of the strangest episodes in World Series history — games have been rained out, but this was the first suspended Series game ever — ended up being a pretty good ballgame, just one with a 46-hour break in the sixth inning.
The Tampa Bay Rays, you’ll remember, had tied the game 2-2 in the soggy top of the sixth Monday, the last half-inning played that night, but Philadelphia got the run back in the bottom half, the first played Wednesday. Pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins doubled off of Grant Balfour to lead off and came home on Jason Werth’s pop fly single.
Rays second-baseman Akinori Iwamura, playing in with Jenkins on third, made a long run out to center to try to make an over-the-shoulder catch. The ball came straight over his head and he dropped it.
Several Rays players had greeted Wednesday’s weather wearing not just caps with ear flaps but also balaclavas. Fox TV reported the game-time temperature as 43 degrees. The box score says 47 — though it also lists the time of game as “3:28 (:30 delay),” so maybe it’s not the best source. Chilly, but clearly not ski-mask weather. The Phillies did not appear to be dressed for the slopes. Those of certain faiths might be of the belief that the overdressed Rays offended the baseball gods.
Rocco Baldelli’s experience seemed to confirm that belief. Though he wore a ski mask under his helmet in the on-deck circle, he stripped down to normal baseball gear to bat in the top of the seventh and promptly hit Ryan Madson’s first pitch to him into the left-field bleachers to tie the game again at 3-3.
The Rays might have scored more in that inning but for a base-running blunder and a smart play by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. With Jason Bartlett at second and two outs, Iwamura hit a sharp grounder up the middle off of J.C. Romero. Utley ranged to his right, behind the bag, to field the ball. Realizing he had no play on Iwamura at first, he pump-faked, hoping to catch Bartlett rounding third.
It worked. Third-base coach Tom Foley was fooled and sent Bartlett. Utley’s throw home was just good enough for catcher Carlos Ruiz to tag Bartlett out and end the inning.
The Phillies came right back in the bottom of the seventh — say, this was pretty good; they ought to have two-day delays more often! Pat Burrell’s leadoff double against J.P. Howell eventually led to Pedro Feliz’s RBI single through another drawn-in infield.
Rays manager Joe Maddon ended up helping the Phillies score runs in two different innings by bringing his infield in, turning the mediocre Feliz into a good hitter and the good hitter Werth into a great one. Maddon also kept warming up David Price, the phenom who’s his most dominating and arguably his best relief pitcher at this point, but then bringing in lesser relievers. Price finally entered the game to start the eighth, the Rays already down by the final score, 4-3.
Brad Lidge pitched a shutout ninth, completing a year in which he didn’t blow a save. He struck out Eric Hinske on three pitches to close the door, and Philadelphia went wild. This is the Phillies’ first championship since 1980, which isn’t such a big deal in the scheme of things, and their second title ever, which is. It’s also, famously, the first major pro sports championship in Philly since 1983, when the 76ers last won the NBA. That ought to be worth a burned car or two.
It leaves Cleveland unchallenged as the city of sports futility, having gone since 1964 without a title of any kind, though it lacks an NHL team — we’re going along with that thing of calling hockey a major sport — and didn’t have an NBA team for the first few years of that drought.
Good for Philadelphia, for the Phillies and for anyone who wasn’t looking forward to having to choose between a Game 7 and trick-or-treating Friday night. Not so good for those of us hoping to see a World Series Game 6 again before we shuffle along.
This World Series is the fifth straight that’s lasted only four or five games, a new record. The longest stretch of years without a Game 6 before the current one had been four, from 1913 to 1916. To give you an idea how long ago that was, the Philadelphia A’s, Boston Braves and Babe Ruth were all involved in those years.
The Phillies too. They lost in five games to the Red Sox in 1915, didn’t get back to the Series till 1950, then stayed away again until they won it in 1980.
So they’re used to long delays in Philadelphia. This one, 46 hours, was the best by far.