FOX Sports Exclusive
Rainout is actually good for Series
Game 6 of the World Series was postponed Wednesday. My sources said, “Booooooooooo!”
Since childhood, we’ve been conditioned to associate precipitation with bad news — except, of course, when snow days are involved. Snow days are the coolest.
But I’m here to deliver some shocking news: By the end of this week, you will be glad that Major League Baseball pushed back Game 6 from Wednesday to Thursday. And I’m happy to give you five reasons why.
1. The Verlander Effect
Because of Justin Verlander’s certain Cy Young and likely MVP season, he carried the most hype of any starting pitcher into this postseason. And he even though he won two games to help the Tigers come within two victories of the World Series, his October will be better remembered for something else: raindrops.
He started Game 1 of the American League Division Series against New York but pitched just one inning … because it rained.
He started Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against Texas but pitched just four innings … because it rained.
It’s hard to argue that the weather significantly affected the Tigers’ shot at winning the pennant; Texas simply played better in the ALCS. But Verlander’s curtailed starts diminished the postseason’s entertainment value, because he had been so captivating throughout the regular season.
By calling Game 6 several hours in advance, MLB eliminated the possibility that weather will have a disproportionate effect on which team wins the World Series. The two starting pitchers — Colby Lewis for Texas, Jaime Garcia for St. Louis — deserve to pitch to their full capability on the biggest night of their professional lives.
2. The Fisk Effect
If baseball fans are lucky, Game 6 of ’11 will join in the waterlogged lineage of the most famous World Series Game 6 ever — the one at Fenway Park on Oct. 21, 1975.
Rain postponed that Game 6 for three days, forcing Reds manager Sparky Anderson to take his team to Tufts University in nearby Medford, Mass., for an indoor workout. We’ll never know if the delays helped the drama build. But it’s certainly possible, based on what occurred when the teams finally reconvened at Fenway Park.
The Reds and Red Sox played for 4 hours and 1 minute on a Tuesday night, until Carlton Fisk waved his home run fair in the bottom of the 12th inning. Boston’s 7-6 victory forced a Game 7, where Cincinnati prevailed, 4-3.
3. Keep the bats warm
Consider what the Cardinals and Rangers lineups have produced so far in this World Series:
• First two games, in St. Louis: 4 combined runs per game, on average.
• Next three games, in Texas: 11 combined runs per game, on average.
OK, so the numbers at Rangers Ballpark were inflated by the Cardinals’ 16-7 rout in Game 3. But you get the point. If you like offense, a cold, drizzly night in St. Louis isn’t your idea of perfect baseball weather. In that event, your patience should be rewarded. The conditions Thursday night are supposed to be better than what the teams would have seen Wednesday.
Another benefit of the postponement is that ailing sluggers Josh Hamilton (possible sports hernia) and Matt Holliday (inflamed tendon in his right middle finger) will get additional rest. So, the extra rest should have a positive impact on both lineups.
4. Rested relievers are better relievers
The Cardinals and Rangers won pennants without getting a quality start from their rotations during the LCS round, so we knew that the bullpens would play a big role in the World Series.
Of course, we didn’t know the bullpen phones would be such a huge topic.
By now, of course, you know the story: La Russa wanted Bruce Sutter to face Mike Napoli in Game 5, but the bullpen sent him Dizzy Dean. Or something like that.
With that controversy behind us — maybe — here’s the important point about the Game 6 postponement: Every reliever on both teams will have had a minimum of two days off by the time play resumes Thursday night. Since October for a reliever is like April for an accountant, both staffs will feel as if they just spent a week on Kauai.
Translation: Motte and closer counterpart Neftali Feliz should have plenty of life in their right arms, enough that their managers may be tempted to squeeze more than three outs from them.
5. Seventh wonder?
But I will say this: If there is a Game 7, we would need a three-hour pregame show to discuss all the storylines and subplots.
For one thing, there would be no escaping the fact that Albert Pujols would be playing his final game before free agency. Fans and media would be sniffing around — even more so than usual — for clues about Prince Albert’s offseason plans.
Most of the intrigue, though, would involve pitching — and Wednesday’s postponement acted as a multiplier.
Washington, meanwhile, would have the option of going with Game 4 hero Derek Holland — on regular rest — over scheduled starter Matt Harrison. Washington has insisted that Harrison is his man for Game 7, and that shouldn’t be surprising. He tends to stick with his players, no matter how much outside pressure suggests he should do otherwise.
But if the Rangers fall in seven games without Holland getting a chance to build on his 8 1/3 scoreless innings, then Washington will be second-guessed … almost as much as La Russa has been this week.
For all of that, we can thank Mother Nature. She has quite a flair for the dramatic.