Fit to be tied -- again

October, 29, 2008
Some notes on the Rays' game-tying rally in the seventh:

Before Ryan Madson gave up that home run to Rocco Baldelli, he hadn't allowed a homer in over two months  since an Aug. 28 gopherball to Mike Fontenot at Wrigley Field.

Madson hadn't given up a home run at Citizens Bank Park in exactly SIX months -- since a Scott Hairston bomb on April 29.

And while it didn't lead to a run, J.P. Howell's sacrifice bunt almost set up the go-ahead run. Which is notable because you'll never guess how many regular-season sac bunts Howell has laid down? Right you are. Zero.

--Jayson Stark

Some firsts for Jenkins (9:08 p.m. ET) How unlikely was Geoff Jenkins' contribution to this extravaganza? Consider all this:

It was Jenkins' first hit in over a month -- since a Sept. 28 single off Odalis Perez in the final game of the regular season, after the Phillies had already clinched.

It was Jenkins' first extra-base hit since Sept. 24  a double against the Braves.

And when Jayson Werth drove Jenkins in, it was the first time he'd crossed home plate since (ready for this?) Aug. 11. That was 79 days ago!

--Jayson Stark

Fit to be tied (8:33 p.m. ET)
One of the many fascinating angles to this matchup is that you couldn't find two teams more comfortable in situations like the one they'll find themselves in Wednesday night -- tied in the sixth inning.

The Phillies had the best record in the National League (28-60) in games in which they were either tied or trailing after the sixth, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In fact, there was only one team in baseball that had a record in that good in those situations. And it was …

Yup. Tampa Bay -- also at 28-60.

--Jayson Stark

Spending a day off (8:19 p.m. ET)
I spent some time asking Rays players about what they did on their day off. There were some interesting answers, but none could top Dioner Navarro's.

He said he went to his wife's uncle's house. When asked where that was, Navarro said, "I don't even know. I know it was an hour-and-a-half from the hotel [in Wilmington, Del.]."

He arrived at the house, and in the backyard the family roased a dead pig in a pit for hours. Navarro said he didn't take part in the killing, skinning or roasting, because it was all outside, and it was "too cold." But he sure did eat it.

"It was good," he said. "It was really good."

Rice and beans, salad and "all the other goodies," were served.

Evan Longoria, meanwhile, went to a Hooters with a few teammates. When asked what he ate he said, "What do you think?"


Longoria nodded his head.

Jason Bartlett rented a car and he and his wife headed to a mall. Like Navarro, Bartlett seemed to be directionally challenged. He had no idea what state the mall was in, but he didn't leave empty-handed. Bartlett went into a Brookstone and sat in a chair, which had a mobile massager. He liked it so much be bought one.

Reliever Dan Wheeler had a fairly boring day. His wife and oldest son left to go back home Tuesday night, so he came to an optional workout at the park and threw in the tunnel, just to get his arm loose. He went back to the hotel and ate by himself before going to sleep.

"There was nothing to do," he said. "It was kind of sitting in the hotel, waiting."

But Wheeler's day was not as uneventful as Rocco Baldelli's.

Baldelli said he didn't leave his hotel room once. He drew the shades on Monday night, and didn't leave until coming to the park here today. He said his television was on the entire time and he watched at least four movies.

"I was in space, vegetating," Baldelli said. "Had my pajamas on for pretty much two days."

--Amy K. Nelson

7:52 p.m. ET
Win or lose, the Rays will be flying home to Tampa on a charter after tonight's suspended game. But they're not leaving anything to chance in the event of an unexpected turn in the weather (and, heaven forbid, another rain-induced suspension).

Media relations director Rick Vaughn said the Rays have vacated their rooms at the DuPont Hotel in Wilmington, Del. But Jeff Ziegler, the team travel director, has the rooms on "hold'' in the unlikely event the team has to return for another night.

It's dry right now at Citizens Bank Park and the chance of rain is only 20 percent. But after Monday's fiasco, the Rays aren't leaving anything to chance.

--Jerry Crasnick

Dubee not worried (7:49 p.m. ET)
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee didn't seem too concerned about his team's bullpen situation tonight if the game goes longer than the 3½ innings.

"We've got seven guys fully rested," Dubee said on the field before the game. "And [J.A.] Happ can throw a few for us and there's [Joe] Blanton too if we need him."

I was asked because, with this game is tied 2-2, it could be awhile before someone scores. But Dubee really thought that was worst-case scenario and with most of their pitchers rested, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

We shall see.

--Amy K. Nelson

Neutral-site Series? No way! (6:30 p.m. ET)
Whenever the weather turns bad for a World Series (this year and 2006 come to mind), you hear two things: Why don't we shorten the regular season so the Series can be played earlier, and why don't we have a Super Bowl-like World Series in a warm-weather neutral site?

Nothing against those advocates, but I don't get it. Sure, shorten the regular season to 154 games. Now then, can you guarantee me you won't get rain or cold in, say, Boston, New York or Philly, if you start the Series a week earlier? Of course not.

A neutral site for the World Series? "Oh, no, not at all," says Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. "I don't like that. I would not be a fan of that at all."

Here's why: Baseball isn't football. NFL fans get eight home regular season games. College fans get six or seven. But MLB fans hang in there for 162 games, 81 of them at home. They deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, their money, and their passion.

Also, the Super Bowl and the BCS Championship are a best-of-one series. The World Series is best of seven. It's apples and aspargus.

Rays Game 6 starter James Shields tried to talk his way into pitching in the completion of Game 5. "[Maddon] basically told me I have a better chance of pinch-hitting than pitching."

That's a no then?

Shields on the strangeness of this night's game: "It's like a three-inning war."

Who has the advantage tonight? Maddon suggested the Rays have the momentum.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had another take. "I wouldn't trade positions," he said.

--Gene Wojciechowski

Madson gets the 'start' for Phillies (6:05 p.m. ET)
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says that Ryan Madson, his top setup man, will start what remains of Game 5. After the Phillies pinch-hit for Cole Hamels in the bottom of the sixth inning, Madson will face Dioner Navarro, Rocco Baldelli and Jason Bartlett, who are due up for Tampa Bay in the top of the seventh.

While Madson pitched exclusively in relief this season, he broke into the Phillies' system as a starter in 1998 and continued in that role through the 2003 season with Triple-A Scranton. So he might be more comfortable with the unusual circumstances in this suspended game than some of the other Philadelphia relievers.

"It's kind of a mindset thing, but I think when you look at it he's got to get three outs or four outs or five outs, whatever -- however long we leave him in,'' Manuel said.

--Jerry Crasnick

Chilly night at the ballpark (6:01 p.m. ET)
Your five-minute accu-weather forecast from the ballpark. The tarp is off the field, the Phillies are taking batting practice, there are scattered clouds, it is very windy and rather chilly.

It appears that rain will not be an issue, but a good drinking game for TV viewers will be to have a drink of your favorite beverage every time someone mentions "wind-chill factor.''

--Jim Caple

Cold play (5:58 p.m. ET)
Which team has the advantage in the cold weather? Based on the regular season, it's the Phillies, who were 4-1 in games played in temperatures 50 degrees or less, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Rays were 1-5, though it's worth noting that obviously all six games were played on the road. The game-time temperature is expected to be 40 degrees.

--Katie Sharp, ESPN Research


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