Watching the rain

Roy Halladay will take the mound tonight for the Phillies, weather permitting. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON -- The tarp is not covering the infield. It was removed by Nationals grounds crew members a few hours ago. But it was not rolled up. Instead, it sits ominously in right field.

The Phillies pitchers are in left field, warming up for the game a few hours beforehand as they normally would. Roy Halladay was in the players' kitchen going over the Washington lineup with catcher Carlos Ruiz.

But around 7 p.m., the rain is forecasted to come. And it isn't supposed to let up until well beyond 10 p.m. After that, the forecast calls for 70 percent rain.

Playing baseball here is not promising tonight. But the Phillies and Nationals have the best forecasts of anyone. Charlie Manuel said he thinks they will start the game.

"It's not supposed to pour," Manuel said. "They say around 8 o'clock we might have some rain."

So I asked Manuel if he had considered not starting Halladay for fear of losing him to a rain delay just a few innings into the game.

"If we get him up, we're going to start him," Manuel said. "What do you want me to do? We're going to win the game. That's what we came here for."

One decision was made based upon the weather: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins will not play as expected. Rollins pinch-hit in Sunday's game and both player and manager said he would start Monday.

A potentially wet field took care of that.

"I figured the field is going to be wet," Manuel said. "What do I gain by playing him?"

If the Phillies are rained out, the team will indeed stay at Nationals Park to watch the Braves-Marlins game on TV. The Phillies clinch their fourth straight National League East with either a win or a Braves' loss.

So it could be a long, rainy and interesting night.