Rays making best of unusual situation

Rays' Joe Maddon can't worry about what he can't control.
Rays' Joe Maddon can't worry about what he can't control.
Posted: October 29, 2008

THE PART about being tied at two, going into the bottom of the sixth with Cole Hamels out of the game, that part Joe Maddon is more than comfortable with.

"That's a pretty good feeling," the Tampa Bay Rays manager said during a conference call yesterday afternoon. "He has been so good, and to scratch out the runs that we've had has been very difficult."

It's the other part, the 2-day delay - at least a 2-day delay depending on weather conditions tonight - between the final out in the top of the inning and the next Phillies batter in the bottom that make Game 5 of the World Series such an oddity.

There hasn't been anything quite like it since an earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series between Oakland and San Francisco. And even then, each game was played in its entirety.

Baseball was praised for its handling of that sensitive situation almost 2 decades ago. Baseball has been pelted by criticism for its reaction to Monday night's storm. Maddon will not join in the carping.

"Everybody got together and made their best attempt," he said. "When it comes down to the weather, it's kind of a difficult thing to foresee. I think we had the forecast, all the information, and it just didn't work out.

"I don't have a problem with it. I mean that sincerely. It's just an unfortunate turn of events, weatherwise, but we'll figure it out and get through it. It's just the way it is. There's no crying about it. I'm not really one to point fingers. I've never been that person. I'm not going to do it now."

When the Rays showed up at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, they were scheduled to fly back to Tampa after the game. If they won, it would have been to resume play, down three games to two, with Game 6 tonight. If they lost, it would have been to begin their postseason.

The weather scrambled their plans. They already had checked out of their Center City hotel, and not enough rooms were available. Their luggage had to be retrieved from the chartered flight waiting at the airport.

They ended up at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, and most of the traveling party spent the day enjoying its Old World charm. A bus was available to take any players who wanted to go to the ballpark for treatment, to throw or to hit in the indoor cages, but Maddon expected few, if any, to make the trip.

"It's like getting snowed in," the manager said as heavy rains continued to pelt the streets outside. "I go back to my roots. On days that it snows too much or the weather is so bad you can't go outside, everybody kind of gathers.

"I came down this morning to get a cup of coffee, and there were a bunch of Rays folks down there having a good time. Families together and a bunch of kids still with us. I don't know if it was one of those times when the organization comes together, [but] everybody understands what's going on."

When play resumes, the Phillies' pitcher's spot is due to lead off the bottom of the sixth. The Rays technically still have righthanded reliever Grant Balfour in the game.

Maddon declined to discuss his strategy, although he didn't rule out the possibility of having a lefthander and a righthander warmed up to counter Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's pinch-hitter.

Beyond that, he conceded that a game that is usually leisurely and develops at its own pace will more resemble speed dating this time. Playing for one run could become more important than ever.

"It's kind of like overtime, in a sense," he said. "It's almost sudden victory at that point.

"We're not afraid to bunt, but there are times that we chose not to," he said. "For me, the bunt is utilized to move up runners to have a pretty good chance of driving them in. It just depends on the moment, what's going on. You want to get on top, but it doesn't necessarily have to be through that avenue. There are different ways of getting it done."

So now Game 5 of the World Series is tied, going into the bottom of the sixth, with Hamels about to come out of the game for a pinch-hitter. The Phillies could be nine outs away from a world championship. The Rays could be 12 outs away from sending the series back to Florida.

"Coming back like we did [scoring the tying run in the top of the sixth] and sitting on it for a day or two could possibly weigh in our favor a little bit," Maddon said. "I'm not sure yet. Of course, their bullpen has been magnificent. It's not going to be an easy task, by any means. There's no telling what's going to happen at this point." *

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