A win away from the first championship in their history, the Texas Rangers had to sit and wait another day as officials from Major League Baseball made what turned out to be a prudent early-afternoon call Wednesday to postpone Game Six of the World Series.
The Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals will try again tonight at 8:05 (Ch. 29) and the weather is expected to be fine. It wasn't here Wednesday as the game was called about five hours before the scheduled first pitch even though it was dry at the time. An hour before the game was slated to begin, however, it was raining steadily.
Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for operations, convened an afternoon meeting among the teams, MLB officials and Commissioner Bud Selig and they agreed not to take the chance on one of those start-and-stop specials that have plagued this postseason.
It was the first postponement of a Series game prior to the first pitch since Game Four here between the Cardinals and Detroit in 2006. Officials were probably extra cautious in a potential clinching situation because of the three-day fiasco the weather spawned during Philadelphia's 2008 clincher over Tampa Bay.
"You always talk to the Commissioner, and you know, it was basically a conversation about, 'Do you want to play in rain?' " Torre said. "[The forecasts] all were consistent in saying there was going to be rain during the game.
Maybe not enough to stop it, but maybe enough to stop it. And that was enough to just make this decision."
And that was enough to give both teams plenty of food for thought about their pitching if the Cardinals win tonight and force Game Seven, now set for Friday night. Texas leads the series, three games to two, after Monday's 4-2 win at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas manager Ron Washington has not wavered about his choice of Matt Harrison, who gave up five runs in Game Three, even though lefty Derek Holland would now be pitching on his regular day and is coming off 8 1/3 brilliant innings in Game Four.
"Harrison has been a big part of this team all year. I am not changing the things that I've been doing all year," Washington said. "That's why we are where we are, and that's why I'm saying Harrison."
The Cardinals seem to get a boost from the rainout because they can now go back to ace Chris Carpenter on three days rest Friday. Carpenter, who won the Game Five clincher of the division series in Philadelphia, pitched seven innings Monday in Texas.
Still, there's no guarantee Carpenter will be sharp. He pitched on three days rest in the division series and the Phillies touched him for four runs in only three innings.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa may be preparing to start either Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson or Jake Westbrook in Game Seven, and keep Carpenter back for a couple of innings of relief.
"I was told by Carp that he would be ready to go in Game Seven," La Russa said. "But either getting to Game Seven or winning a seventh game, whether it's Chris Carpenter or anybody, we will not jeopardize an arm."
The next day's starting pitchers are required to appear in the MLB interview area prior to World Series games. La Russa said he knew that MLB senior vice president Katy Feeney, who runs the Cardinals' interview sessions, will ask him for the Game Seven starter today, but that he may not have an answer.
"If [Cardinals Hall of Famer] Bob Gibson is there, we'll send Bob in," La Russa said as reporters laughed. "We don't have one."
Both managers knew as early as Tuesday that Game Six was in jeopardy due to the forecast. But neither was involved in the decision to call the game.
Asked what input he had, La Russa cracked, "I was getting output. Just picked up the phone, they said, 'The game's postponed.' No input."
"I wasn't asked. But I want to play," Washington said. "But I understand the situation. And because the situation is the way it is, once again, I changed my mind-set from playing a ballgame to getting work and getting back to the hotel. That's it."
In the wake of speculation the Cardinals were looking for a rainout to give them a chance to use Carpenter again, Torre said neither team lobbied MLB to play or postpone based on strategy.
"[Tuesday] I talked to both 'Wash' and Tony that if the forecast didn't get measurably better that we were probably going to call it early, and they were both understanding of it," Torre said. "They didn't offer any kind of strategy fight on it. It was just 'OK.' "
Torre added it was easier to wait a day because the series was at Game Six and not early on, where travel days and changing flight plans for everyone involved would be an issue. He also said consideration for a quick decision was given to the fact fans often drive several hours from around the Midwest to Cardinals games.
La Russa confirmed lineup changes for tonight will include Skip Schumaker in center field batting second (John Jay is in an 0-for-14 slump) and Lance Berkman moving up to the cleanup slot to better protect Albert Pujols. Matt Holliday, just 3 for 18 in the series, will drop to No. 5.