Game Five of the World Series was left in limbo Monday night by Mother Nature.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were tied at 2-2 in the middle of the sixth inning when umpires and officials from Major League Baseball suspended the game due to a wind-driven downpour that enveloped Citizens Bank Park.
The rain was not expected to let up for several hours and the game was officially called after a wait of just 30 minutes. The first suspended Series game is to be completed tonight, although details may not be ironed out until this morning.
One big problem: Today's forecast in Philadelphia is even worse, with temperatures not expected to get out of the 40s and winds gusting to 50 mph from a Nor'easter that's expected to race up the Atlantic Coast.
The Phillies lead the series, three games to one, and were trying for the second championship in their 126-year history. Their only other one came in 1980.
A grim-faced Commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged the forecast for tonight is iffy and said simply, "We'll resume, weather permitting, when the health and welfare of our players is protected as much as it can be."
With the rain pouring down, the Rays dramatically tied the game in the top of the sixth off Phillies ace Cole Hamels. With two out, B.J. Upton reached on an infield single to short, somehow navigated the muck-filled base paths to steal second and scored on Carlos Pena's single to left.
When Evan Longoria lined deep to center for the final out, umpires called for the tarp to cover the field.
And that was it.
It rained on and off during batting practice and very lightly in the early innings but the heavy stuff started for real in the bottom of the fourth as the temperature dropped to 40. The rain quickly turned the dirt areas in the infield and the warning tracks into quagmires and made the mound treacherous as well.
The Phillies were leading, 2-1, on the strength of Shane Victorino's two-out, two-run single in the first off Scott Kazmir. When the Rays eked out their tying run, it seemingly got MLB officials out of a very sticky situation.
What if they stopped the game for a delay and the weather did not allow it to be restarted? By baseball rules, that would have left the Phillies a rain-shortened winner -- and no World Series game had ever failed to go the regulation nine innings, let alone a contest that could decide the championship in one team's favor.
"We thought maybe it was a huge run," said Rays reliever Grant Balfour, who got the final three outs of the fifth and is expected to be on the mound when play resumes. "Any run was big but we thought maybe that was a run that kept us alive. We didn't know."
"I'm glad nobody got hurt," Upton said. "It was tough. I was just telling myself to stay on my feet. Once I got around third, I went a little wider than I wanted to. We were prepared to play nine [innings]."
Selig, however, said he was not going to let the Rays lose in less than nine. In fact, if the game was not tied, he was going to use his the commissioner's "best interests of the game" power to put the contest into a rain delay, even if that meant, as he put it, "a day or two or three or whatever."
"I have to use my judgment. It's not a way to end a World Series," Selig said. "I have enough authority here, frankly, so that I think that I'm not only on solid ground. I'm on very solid ground. . . . I would not have allowed the World Series to end this way."
Selig said the series will continue in Philadelphia and no thought is being given to shifting the remainder of play back to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," Selig said.
The Rays seemingly have an advantage now that the Phillies will be unable to bring back Hamels, the ace who was trying to become the first starter in postseason history to win five games.
"It's tough but you're not going to win against Mother Nature," Hamels said. "All you can do is go out there and battle. It's back to a 0-0 game and we'll come out [today] and I have all the faith in our guys. It's up to our hitters and bullpen to win it for us."
"Nothing's ever been easy for us," said closer Brad Lidge. "Like [shortstop] Jimmy Rollins says, 'That's the Phillie Way.' Hopefully it will be worth the wait."
Kazmir struggled through his outing, needing 103 pitches to last four-plus innings. He walked six, including two in the first.
Pena and Longoria entered the game a combined 0 for 29 but finally broke through after being dropped one spot in the order. Pena doubled in the fourth for his first hit and scored Tampa Bay's first run on Longoria's single to left-center as the rookie snapped an 0-for-17 skid.