It all started so well.
Game 5 of the World Series began last night with Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels mowing the Tampa Bay Rays down in order and in easy fashion in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies loaded the bases thanks to some rough umpiring and the early wildness of Rays all-star lefty Scott Kazmir. And then Phillies‘ center fielder Shane Victorino, the ‘Flyin‘ Hawaiian’, one of the many heroes of this glorious post-season ride, lashed a base hit to left field to score two runs and give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.
The fans at Citizen’s Bank Park erupted in a frenzy of ‘rally towel’ waving, and thus began what was hoped to be, what everyone believed would be, the night that would end ‘The Curse’. For 25 years the vast majority of the people in this sports-crazed region have waited for a champion.
In that quarter-century of teams falling short, the inability of Philly’s major pro sports teams to bring home even one title among them has taken on the stuff of legend. It is to the point now where everyone refers to ‘100 seasons’ without a championship, referring to the fact that all among the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers have each played out those 25 years without a title.
So, here in the City of Brotherly Love we have been forced to sit through a hundred titleless pro sports seasons among our hometown professional sports teams. But something has been building with these Phillies that felt different. Events of this past weekend only served to solidify that feeling.
On Saturday night, the Phils had overcome a daylong rain that delayed the game, winning in dramatic fashion in the wee hours of Sunday morning to take a 2-1 Series lead.
On Sunday, the sun had broken through and on a chilly night the Phillies bats awoke and delivered a 10-2 drubbing to the overmatched Rays to setup this potential clincher.
The possibility of rain lurked all day on Monday, but there was a very real possibility of getting the game in under chilly and drizzly conditions, and with a true nor’easter coming through on Tuesday, the powers that be at Major League Baseball decided to try to get it done.
Back in the game, Hamels continued to breeze as the rain began through the early innings. The Phillies took that 2-0 lead into the 4th inning as the rains intensified and the field slowly began to deteriorate.
When the Rays’ wunderkind rookie third baseman Evan Longoria finally broke out of a series-long slump with an RBI single in the 4th, Tampa Bay had cut it to 2-1, but Hamels still seemed in control.
Only the weather was now becoming a serious problem. The skies began to open up and dump out a deluge of water, and without some break coming quickly the nightmare scenario of the World Series ending under the literal and figurative cloud of a shortened game was becoming a serious possibility.
When Hamels got out of the top of the 5th thanks to an incredible double play turned by Chase Utley, the game was official based on MLB rules, and the storm was only getting more intense.
At home in the warm, dry comfort of our family room, my wife and I flipped to a local cable 24-hour weather service. The radar was not telling a pretty tale. The dark green of the heavy rainstorm showed no relief in sight.
It was very apparent at that point that this game could not possibly continue much longer no matter what MLB officials wanted, no matter what the players wanted, no matter what the 46,000 championship-starved fans wanted.
The field at Citizen’s Bank Park is state of the art as far as handling any kind of normal rain load, but this was nothing of the sort. The turf and dirt were taking a real pounding with puddles forming as the ultra-modern drainage system and a determined grounds crew were simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume and persistence of the water that Mother Nature was pouring down.
Was there a chance that the umpires would be forced to stop the game, that the tarp would be brought out and the infield covered, and a lengthy rain delay ensue?
Problem with that scenario was that the weather forecasts now contained no good news. You could wait two, four, six hours. You could wait all night, this thing was not going to let up.
Was it possible that the Phillies could become the first team to ever win a World Series title in a game called by rain? I don’t care how long we have waited, there was not a single fan in that ballpark, in this entire area, who wanted to win under those conditions.
Well, the point became moot. The umps decided to try to squeeze out one more frame. In the top of the 6th inning, Rays slugger Carlos Pena came through with a game-tying single before Hamels could close things out. With the score now knotted at 2-2, there was simply no other choice than to suspend the contest.
And so here we sit in Philadelphia as the Tuesday nor’easter rages all around us. The storm is scheduled to last all day, meaning that the field is going to have no chance to dry out even if the rains stop by the scheduled 8:00 pm game time, which is itself no guarantee.
The weather around here was gorgeous just days ago. At the end of this week, it is slated to be beautiful again, giving the kiddies a nice Halloween evening on which to trick-or-treat. But right now when we need it most, the late fall weather is making the game of baseball embarrassingly, ridiculously unplayable.
How this will all end now is a great unknown. What seemed like an inevitable championship just one day ago now seems much riskier. Whenever the Phillies and Rays will start again, with the game entering the bottom of the 6th inning tied at 2-2, a shortened risk/opportunity of three innings.
Will Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel give the ball to Brett Myers? Will they put it in the hands of their lights-out bullpen? Have the Rays hitters awoken just in time to steal a shortened game and send the Series back to Tampa-St. Pete? All great unknowns.
I can tell you this. Right now it doesn’t feel good. It feels like something happened last night that was not in the players power to control, something which may have turned the momentum towards the Rays.
Thanks to this incredible deluge from the heavens, our championship dream has been drowned. It is up to these so-far resilient Phillies players to find a way to overcome this latest obstacle, and bring home that elusive title.