Philly fans accustomed to having rain on their parade

Baseball Insider

October 29, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

PHILADELPHIA - Curses are made for cities like Chicago and Boston.

Not for a rough-and-tumble, fatalistic haven such as Philadelphia.

It wasn't a curse that caused the World Series to be postponed by inclement weather for at least two days.

It wasn't just industry indecision that suspended Game 5 only after the Tampa Bay Rays scored in the top of the sixth to tie it at 2, wiping out a Phillies lead, and technically speaking, a potential title-clinching victory.

It wasn't bad luck that sheets of rain and swirling wind would converge on a night when ace Cole Hamels was cruising.

Around here, those things have nothing to do with curses.

They are an accepted way of sporting life.

To paraphrase Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins' message to many of his teammates over the years: Nothing comes easy for the Phillies.

The same can be said for the city's other sports teams.

Print the T-shirts: Philadelphia - The City That Gets Screwed Over.

It wouldn't surprise Philly fans if, now that Game 5 had to be pushed back and Hamels has to be shelved, their team loses and is forced to go to Florida for games 6 and 7. It wouldn't surprise Philly fans if they lose it all now, after fate - or Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig - intervened.

And here's the crazy part: It wouldn't surprise anyone inside the sport either.

Because, baseball-wise, this postponement helps the Rays.

Most important, the rain chased Hamels, who had won all four of his previous postseason games this year but now could be saddled with a no-decision.

He had thrown 75 pitches in six innings and, according to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, likely could have pitched into the eighth. Instead, Manuel will lift him for a pinch hitter when the game resumes.

"That's a pretty good feeling, obviously," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said about not having to face Hamels for the rest of Game 5. "He has been so good, and to scratch out the runs that we've had has been very difficult. Of course, their bullpen has been magnificent, also. So it's not going to be an easy task by any means. But we have a lot of our bullpen fresh now, too. So getting him out is important."

Then there is momentum. The Phillies scored twice in the first inning. They had the Rays on the ropes, and their hungry fans were sniffing a championship.

But the Rays scored two runs against the amazing Hamels while the Phillies were stymied. Those runs were driven in by Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, the heart of the Rays' order that had been 0-for-29 heading into Game 5.

Now, the Rays have had time to revel in their small successes while the Phillies have had to stew with a "what might have been."

"I think us coming back like we did and sitting on it for a day or two possibly could weigh in our favor a little bit," Maddon said. "I'm not sure yet."

Another potential advantage for the Rays is subtle, but in this sport of mental edges, could be a factor. After the game was called, the Phillies went back to their respective homes.

The Rays, however, boarded a bus and drove to Wilmington, Del., to the only hotel in the area that could handle such a large block of rooms on such short notice. Maddon said it was like having a snow day back when he was a kid in Hazleton, Pa.

It was more bonding time for a club that was already exceptionally close.

"I came down this morning to get coffee, and there were a bunch of Rays folks down there having a good time," Maddon said. "Families together and a bunch of kids still with us. I don't know, it was one of those moments when the organization comes together."

Ultimately, the only thing that matters is what happens on the field. And the Phillies' excellent bullpen should neutralize the loss of Hamels. Plus, Manuel wouldn't rule out an appearance by Hamels in Game 7, if that becomes necessary.

Ever positive, Manuel still likes his club's chances based on simple math. The Phillies lead the Series 3-1, and they have 12 outs remaining in Game 5, whereas the Rays have only nine.

"I don't think there's going to be any problem at all," Manuel said. "I think we've been resilient now for the last couple of years. I think we know exactly where we're going and what we want to do. We're going to be ready."

The Phillies are still in a great position to become world champions. This city is still on the cusp of celebrating its first title since the 76ers in 1983.

Then again, this is Philly. Heartbreak is never that far away.

Rays @Phillies

Continuation

of Game 5,

tonight, 8:37

TV: Chs. 45, 5

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