Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why the Rays will win Game 5

The game is tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 6th.

But Mother Nature is winning.

The question now is: Who will win tonight? Patience.

The most bizarre World Series situation has unfolded over the past 36 hours with Game 5 being suspended because of a rain that went from an annoyance to turn-the-windshield-wipers-on-high in the span of a couple innings Monday night.

MLB probably waited too long to call the game. But they waited just long enough for Tampa Bay to tie Philadelphia 2-2 with a Carlos Pena opposite-field single.

And now the wait. Who will win Game 5? 


Controversy has been brewing in the sports media on Bud Selig's rule change, insisting the game would not have ended because of rain, even after the 5th inning, had the Rays not scored that tying run in the 6th. Even though the letter of the law states that.

Incidentally, I agree with Selig's ruling, which as commissioner he's allowed to do. You simply can't end the World Series on a called game in the 6th inning. This guy's still trying to recover his image from calling the All-Star game a few years ago, tied in the 12th inning.

So, where does that leave us for tonight's 8:37 p.m., 6th-inning first pitch? 

Not so fast.

The fact that the Rays players didn't know what they were dealing with, specifically Pena, when he was at the plate. If he strikes out, is that the end of their run? Sure, Joe Madden could have told his players what the commish had decided, but the fact that the decision was made on the fly without the players' knowledge is stirring the pot. 

Pressure does change how you play the game. Sometimes dramatically. And leave it to Madden, the unorthodox, fifth-infielder, mad scientist to keep that pressure boiling in the clubhouse, which may have led to the them tying the game in a near-downpour.

Which leads us right back to our suspended game, which will be nearly 48 hours old before we know the winner of Game 5, and more importantly, whether the Phillies will bring the first major sports championship to the city since 1980.

My official gut feeling for tonight's game: The Rays win 3-2.

Let me explain. 

Temperatures will be in the upper 30s at first pitch. Wind chill will be around 30. 

Have you ever tried swinging a bat in these conditions? It's brutal. Actually beyond that. 

And both teams will be using their best bullpen guys. Grant Balfour was the pitcher of record for the Rays, but look for David Price to throw at least two innings tonight. And I wouldn't be surprised if Madden digs deep into his bag of tricks and sends out Game 4 pitcher Andy Sonnanstine.

And you can bet the Phillies will likely stick with setup diva Ryan Madsen and closer Brad Lidge, who hasn't blown a save all year. 

Yes, these hitters are all big boys, but the sting of the bat and the deadness of the ball in these frigid conditions will likely paralyze most long-ball hitters, even the HR-swatting Ryan Howard, who had recently found his stroke, as if it was the remote stuck between two cushions of the couch.

Tonight, it's all going to come down to Small Ball.

Not to say the Phills can't manufacture a run. But the Rays and Madden's NL-style, run-manufacturing coaching all season long gives the Rays a huge advantage, despite the Phillies getting 12 outs to the Rays' 9. 

Look for Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton or even Jason Bartlett to steal a base or two to set up the winning run, possibly a bunt or sac fly or a grounder to the right side that sends this thing back to Tampa Bay.

And then, the Series will be on.

This 2-day rain delay may be a huge inconvenience for the players and fans alike.

But it's doing wonders for  turning a World Series Snoozefest into must-see TV.


Anonymous said...

The Rays have only 9 outs left. The leadoff hitter in the 7th will be the #6 hitter so they are at the bottom of the order. If they bring up Price to pitch in the 6th, they may have to decide whether to PH for him in the 7th, so two innings are not a given.

Phils have 12 outs and start at the #9 hitter, meaning Rollins and Werth have at least 2 ABs and a couple of men on base mean Utley and Howard get 2 ABs.

The TB heart of the order is likely to get just 1 AB each. Big advantage to Phils.

5-3 Phils.