Could Rain Delay Indefinitely Delay Phillies' Title?

Mark KriegelCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2008

PHILADELPHIA - Human nature being what it is, the Phillies were counting the outs.

They were down to 12. With a one-run lead going into the sixth, and the postseason's undisputed best starter on the mound, there were a dozen outs between them and history. If they weren't a lock to win the 104th World Series, then they were pretty damn close. I don't care what they say now. They had already begun to consider an improbably glorious conclusion to their season. You know at least one guy in that dugout had begun to ask himself, Champagne or beer?

But now?

Now you have a different kind of series. If you accept the idea—as I do, and even some Phillies might—that this is a game of momentum, then you also believe it has shifted. The reality of the situation is that the Rays, who managed to tie the game in the top of the sixth, have caught a considerable, if unavoidable, break. Suddenly, Philadelphia isn't a lock.

"You never know what can happen in a three-inning game," said Brad Lidge.

When play is resumed, probably Wednesday night, manager Charlie Manuel will go to his bullpen. You might think this works for the Phillies, as they are known for their skilled and versatile core of relievers, Lidge first among them. But considering his team remains up three games to one in the World Series, the closer didn't look or sound too happy. For any pitcher used to coming out of the 'pen, he said, the rhythms will be unnatural. Somebody—probably Ryan Madson—will find himself in the unaccustomed role as the starter of a short game.

"I wish it would've been called when we were winning," Lidge said glumly.

He's not alone, at least in this town. Let's acknowledge, as Manuel said in his conference call Tuesday, that the Phillies have "been resilient now for the last couple of years." Very resilient. Just ask the Mets. On the other hand, regret and disappointment are not therapeutic emotions here. And the Phillies have cause to feel both.

None of the assorted questions posed by the suspension of play work to their benefit. If it hadn't been pouring, would Jimmy Rollins have fielded the ball that got B.J. Upton to first?


Did they wait too long to suspend play?

"They could've stopped the game when the field started showing water," said Manuel.

"What were some of the things that upset you?" Manuel was asked.

"We left a lot of guys on base," he said.

Did you want to be going to your bullpen in the sixth?

Hell no. "I liked Hamels being out there," the manager said. "He definitely was on course to go seven innings, maybe eight."

So, you see, the Phillies have lost more than mere momentum. They've lost their best pitcher, too.

And Philly's loss is Tampa's gain. Not only do the Rays not have to worry about Hamels, they don't have to worry about their own heretofore powerless power hitters. Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena were 0-for-29 with 16 strikeouts going into Game Five. And guess what? They each knocked in a run in the game in progress. That's got to help the Rays' heads, as does the fact that wunderkind reliever David Price is now fully rested.

Perhaps that's not enough for the Philly to blow a three-games-to-one lead. Certainly, it shouldn't be. But nothing that's happened since the top of the sixth inning is good for Manuel's team.

"We get to bat four times, they get to bat three," he said. "We get 12 outs, they get nine."

That's a pretty good spin. But then there's this: The Rays were done, now they're not.

Someone asked Manuel about a scenario in which Hamels could come back and pitch in a Game Seven. The question might as well have been, champagne or beer?

The manager didn't answer, of course. But you wonder if any of his players were asking themselves the same thing. If they're thinking Hamels can come back for a Game Seven, they've already lost.


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