Rain delays, extra innings keep MLB up late
Two endings around 3 a.m. and another game that took 17 innings.
Several big league teams definitely went deep this week - deep into the night, that is.
It all started Thursday night in St. Louis when what appeared to be a routine interleague game turned into something else. Thanks to a marathon rain delay and a decision to wait it out, the Kansas City Royals wound up beating the Cardinals 4-2 after 3 o'clock in the morning.
''It was interesting. But for us, it's good,'' Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said.
Calling it a long night would be an understatement. Francoeur noticed the sun rising Friday as Kansas City's plane landed in Texas and saw people having breakfast as the Royals arrived at their hotel near Dallas.
By late Friday, overnight baseball had turned into a trend.
The Tampa Bay Rays endured nearly five hours of rain delays in Cleveland before beating the Indians 9-2 for their sixth straight win in a game that began on Friday night in May and ended early Saturday in June.
Scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m., the game was delayed three times before finally resuming at 12:13 a.m. - 2 hours, 39 minutes after the third and longest delay.
''It's a very awkward way to do this,'' said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who spent the weather stoppages monitoring the storms on an iPad in his office. ''But if you're going to stick around that long you might as well win.''
The teams were delayed a total of 4:49, long enough for the calendar to change before nine innings were played. It ended at 2:53 a.m., giving them a short turnaround before a 1:05 p.m. start on Saturday.
About 20 minutes after the final out in Cleveland, the San Diego Padres pulled out a 4-3 victory over Toronto on Jesus Guzman's run-scoring single in the bottom of the 17th inning.
The winning hit came three innings after the 14th-inning stretch. The game lasted 4:58 - and concluded after midnight on the West Coast.
Clayton Richard (1-5), who had been scheduled to start Saturday night, entered in the 16th and pitched two scoreless innings for the win in his first relief appearance since May 2009 with the Chicago White Sox.
''I was hoping I would get a win today. I was assuming it was going to be later in the day,'' Richard said. ''That's the crazy thing about baseball. You never really know what you're going to get. You come to the park thinking you've got a plan and it gets turned upside down. It was fun, though. That's part of the fun of the game is being in situations where something different happens.''
The Royals and Cardinals should have known something was up Thursday when the first pitch was delayed an hour by rain.
The game moved quickly after that - right up until the top of the ninth inning, with the Royals leading and the rain back in force. Umpire crew chief Joe West had a decision to make.
With the game the last meeting between the two teams this season, a new rule added this year gave West the choice to call the game in a decision that would wipe out the top of the ninth and give the Cardinals a 2-1 win, based on the score from the previous completed inning.
West chose to wait out the rain. And wait. And wait some more.
After 4 1/2 miserable hours, the game resumed shortly after 3 a.m. CDT and the final out came at 3:14 a.m.
Kansas City left for a series in Texas and the Cardinals went home to sleep a bit before a home series against San Francisco. The opener was postponed by inclement weather Friday night - no rain had fallen at Busch Stadium before the game was called - that included tornado warnings in the area.
The teams will play a day-night doubleheader Saturday.
Meanwhile, the weary Royals were beaten 7-2 by the Rangers.
And the umpiring crew from St. Louis? They had a matinee in Chicago, with the first pitch scheduled just 10 hours after the final out early Friday at Busch Stadium.
''We worry about that game when we get to that one,'' West told a pool reporter after Thursday night's game. ''We had to worry about this game.''
He declined comment on Friday.
MLB spokesman Michael Teevan praised West and his crew for handling ''a challenging situation very well.''
''We appreciate the efforts of both clubs, the umpires and particularly the Cardinals' grounds crew, and we are glad that the game was played to completion,'' he added.
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum shrugged off any concerns about sleep-deprived umpires calling Friday afternoon's game against Arizona. The Cubs extended their winning streak to five with a 7-2 victory.
''Sometimes we get in at 3:15 in the morning. They don't have to get to the park that early, so they get plenty of sleep,'' Sveum said. ''That's not something that's going to dictate the game.''
The near-capacity crowd of 43,916 in St. Louis was down to a couple hundred hardy souls when the game ended.
''Joe West did a tremendous job,'' said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team snapped an eight-game skid with the victory.
''He was ready to wait as long as we could. He just felt that we were getting close to that point. He came into the office, `Joe, we've got 15 minutes of rain left and it's gone.' He goes, `well, that's not what I heard. Look, let's go outside.' And we went outside, and it stopped raining.''
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak lobbied during the delay for an eight-inning St. Louis win. West said the Cardinals did not express their frustrations to him directly, made no statement and did not lodge a protest.
Either way, Matheny sounded less than thrilled with the decision to wait out the rain.
''I'm not going to sit here and start bashing the league for what's going on,'' he said. ''But we certainly ended up on the short end of that and we can be paying for it for a couple of days here. There must be a bigger reward out there that I don't see.''
Mozeliak said he was concerned about players getting injured because of the delay and the wet conditions, although he praised the grounds crew and added it would have been a ''PR nightmare'' if they ''had to revert back to the eighth inning.''
''I did feel compelled that we try to get this game in because that would have been unfair to them had it just reverted back to the eighth,'' Mozeliak said.
For the Royals, the long night wasn't their first this week. They endured one getting to St. Louis after Tuesday's game against the Cardinals in Kansas City.
Problems with their plane forced them to take a bus across the state, and they didn't arrive until 5 a.m.
On Thursday, Royals catcher Adam Moore said no one took a nap during the long delay. Instead, they played cards.
''Until we saw that window come, and then they came in and gave us a heads up, that we may have a time frame to go back out there,'' he said, ''we were just kind of hanging out in the clubhouse, trying to stay loose as best as we could.''
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Mike Fitzpatrick in New York, Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, Tom Withers in Cleveland and Bernie Wilson in San Diego, and freelance writers Brian Sandalow in Chicago and Jason L. Young in St. Louis contributed to this report.