Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Phils hold the advantage

The Phillies should be favored from here, whenever they restart.

Phils hold the advantage

In the gloomy light of  morning, after post-game bar arguments and other suitable deliberations, here are the two main points about Game 5 of the World Series, butchered-by-Bud:

1) Whenever they re-start, the Phils will be batting in the bottom of the sixth of a 2-2 game. The Phils, therefore will have four at-bats if they need them while the Tampa Bay Rays will have only three. Advantage, Phillies.

2) When they resume, the game will be in the back end of the bullpen. The Phillies have had the best back end of the bullpen all season, and they have the best back end of the bullpen in this series, and Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero -- both of whom pitched a significant amount in Game 4 -- will now be rested, which they would not have been on Monday night. Advantage, Phillies.

Feel any better?

Look, I know that this is frustrating, and that you are convince the world is against the Phillies, and that you want to drink paint-thinner. And I agree that the game should never have been started by Selig & Co. -- especially because of the way the fans were abused. But once it was started, well, this was not a bad result. It could have been worse.

The conditions began to deteriorate at about 9:20 pm, according to the scrawl in my scorebook. "Rain picks up top of fourth," is what I wrote in the margin. And if you had based the stoppage decision based upon those conditions alone, a stoppage from the top of the fourth on would have been appropriate -- it was raining sideways, after all. But the Phillies didn't want that. To only have gotten nine outs from staff ace Cole Hamels before banging the game really would have been criminal.

But they don't base it primarily on those conditions, but also on the condition of the field. I think it's  fair to say that anytime after the start of the fifth inning could have raised the question of stoppage based upon field conditions. But I said this as it was happening: "Watch the pitchers. The first one who slips, they'll stop." Funny thing, though. No pitcher slipped significantly. And no batter slipped on a swing. That is the traditional measure -- something the umpires said after the game. But no pitcher or hitter slipped.

The infield was cleaned up by  the grounds crew at about 10:05, when the Rays were making a pitching change in the bottom of the fifth. They spread a ton of that drying agent stuff on the dirt and, when they left, it was dry enough to continue. By the top of the sixth, it was much worse, though. By the bottom of the sixth, after the tying run was scored, it was raining harder and it was a mess.

One argument was that they waited until it was a tie game to stop it because it just looked better. That's what I thought as it was happening because what we didn't know is that both team front offices had been told beforehand that the regular-season rain rules would be suspended and that any game would be played to a conclusion after the rain stopped. But given that new rule, which everyone says was decided upon ahead of time, consider:

You are Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. You have been put in a crummy situation by MLB. Again, this game should not have started. That is the crime here, starting. But once it did start, you have your ace on the mound and you have to want him out there as long as humanly possible. Knowing now that the Rays scored the tying run, you would have wanted it stopped in the top of the sixth. But truth be told, as Hamels stood on the mound to start the sixth, leading 2-1, the Phillies wanted him out there. They wanted the game to continue. They wanted to milk as much out of Hamels as they could. And, again: if he had slipped and fallen while delivering a pitch, they would have stopped the game. But he didn't.

It was a terrible situation. It should never have happened. On that, we can agree. That is Selig's incompetence. If you want to rip baseball,  that's the rip -- for starting in the first place, given the weather radar. But once it did start, the Phillies had to want it to go as long as possible. And because you don't like the way the top of the sixth inning turned out does not change the fact that, if they had been given the choice of stopping the game before the inning started, the Phillies likely would have voted to keep playing, to try to get a few more outs from their ace.

The rain robbed them of a full Hamels outing. It took away part of their expected advantage. It has to be frustrating. But the Phils have four at-bats remaining and the Rays have three. The Phils have the better bullpen, and the bullpen is now rested.

Advantage, Phillies.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com Reach Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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