6th-inning stretch at arm's length

The Baltimore Sun

PHILADELPHIA - The World Series will go on.

It just might take awhile.

Major League Baseball postponed the already suspended Game 5 of the 2008 Series for another day because of more rain and wind here, pushing the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning until 8:37 tonight, weather permitting.

According to weather.com, the chance of rain in Philadelphia dips to 30 percent around game time tonight - compared with 100 percent for much of yesterday - but temperatures will be in the low 40s with winds 10 mph or higher.

It might not be optimal baseball weather tonight, but baseball officials are optimistic they will get the remainder of Game 5 in. There is no guarantee, however.

"We are closely monitoring [today's] forecast and will continue to monitor the weather on an hourly basis," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "We will advise fans as soon as we are able to make any final decisions with respect to [tonight's] schedule."

The game will be resumed in the sixth with Tampa Bay Rays reliever Grant Balfour on the mound and Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels scheduled to hit in a 2-2 tie.

Hamels, the Phillies' ace who threw 75 pitches Monday in pounding rain and swirling wind, will be removed for a pinch hitter - likely a left-handed hitter such as Greg Dobbs, assuming Balfour pitches, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Hamels "is not coming back pitching in this game. There's no way," said Manuel, who said he hadn't decided whether Hamels could be available if Game 7 is needed this week.

A potential Game 6 was originally scheduled for tonight in St. Petersburg, Fla., but will be pushed back until at least tomorrow. An MLB spokesman said a schedule beyond Game 5 has not been determined, but Selig is reviewing options. It is likely Selig will eliminate the normal travel day and play the remaining games on consecutive nights.

The Phillies are leading the best-of-seven Series three games to one and were 10 outs from clinching the franchise's first championship in 28 years when Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena hit an RBI single to tie the game at 2. One out later, after the completion of the top of the sixth, umpires called for a rain delay, citing changing wind patterns that made hitting and pitching more difficult. Later, Selig announced that the game would be suspended for the evening and resumed in the sixth when the rain cleared.

Phillies fans and some players were miffed that the game continued after the fifth inning - which would have been a complete game under league rules, and subsequently, would have meant a world championship for the Phillies.

But Manuel said Selig made it clear in a pre-game meeting that his intention was to play a regulation nine innings at some point. Manuel and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said they did not share that information with their respective clubs - simply because they didn't want any change in focus.

"We knew that the game was going to be nine innings, so that kind of took that point away," Manuel said. "Like I knew if the game had to be stopped, it didn't matter what inning or something like that, that we definitely were going to be a suspended game, and we were going to pick it up from that point.

"That's kind of how I looked at it."

As was originally scheduled, tonight's game will start at 8:37 p.m., roughly 10 minutes later than usual, to accommodate presidential candidate Barack Obama's half-hour televised advertisement on several major networks, including Fox, which has World Series broadcast rights.

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