Rain levels playing field

Rain levels playing field

ST. LOUIS -- Forecast for Tuesday: 72 degrees, sunny, excellent chance of 100 percent of Tom Glavine and Jeff Weaver.

After Monday's rainstorm passed through, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series will replace the tarp at Busch Stadium at 8:19 p.m. ET, as the Mets and Cardinals take a dry shot at snapping their 2-2 deadlock.

Glavine and Weaver, who were ready to try it on three days' rest Monday night, now instead will face each other on their regular schedules.

"This helps both teams," Mets third baseman David Wright said of the postponement. "It'll be good for Glavine, and it'll help [St. Louis'] bullpen; they'll be able to recover from all those pitches they had to throw Sunday."

This may have most helped the Detroit Tigers. If the NLCS still goes the distance of seven games, the eventual NL pennant winner will have played three games on three nights in two cities, then travel on Friday for Saturday's opener of the 2006 World Series in Motown.

But that's getting ahead of current affairs, which focus on the question: So how vital is the first game of a three-game series?

The importance of the opening game of a short series is always argued, but there is no debating the significance of the next game of this abridged NLCS.

New York power arranged for a couple of things with Sunday night's 12-5 win to knot this entertaining series at two apiece.

The Mets turned the NLCS into a best-of-three affair. And they also assured the series' return to Flushing. Mr. Met is already polishing off his smile.

The Mets had hoped to be winging homeward a day earlier.

"The guys were ready to go home," said catcher Paul Lo Duca. "We all wanted to sleep in our own beds."

Rainouts can dent pitchers' psyches, because so much of what they do is locked into a routine. Conditions such as those of Monday, when the first thing players saw through their windows in the morning was rain that never abated, make it easier.

"In fact, I had to fight myself not to take it too much for granted that we would not play," Glavine said. "The anxiety level definitely wasn't what I'd usually feel on a day I'm pitching, because I knew there was a chance we would not play."

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While both pitchers will now go on normal four days' rest, the rains might have leveled the field for them. Glavine has started on short rest frequently during his career, but Weaver had far less experience at it.

Now that issue is moot, as both pitchers attempt to continue what has been an outstanding postseason. Glavine has yet to allow a run in 13 innings, while Weaver had a comparable 10 2/3-inning shutout skein in the works until Carlos Beltran homered off him with two outs in the sixth inning of Game 1.

Glavine and Weaver will be reprising their stylish duel in the opener last Thursday, taken by the Mets, 2-0, on that Beltran shot.

Taking the mound in the aftermath of a four-homer explosion by the Mets could be a little unsettling for Weaver. Having split his season between the Angels and the Cardinals somewhat camouflages his numbers, since the two leagues still maintain separate sets of stats.

But Weaver allowed 34 home runs this season. The NL leader in that department was the Cardinals' own Jason Marquis, who after allowing 35 homers wasn't even included on St. Louis' NLCS roster.

The beauty of the Mets' breakout in Game 4 was that one already had the sense that, even had they had lost to fall behind 3-1 in the NLCS, they would have felt confident placing their fate into the hands of Glavine. They would have felt confident of being headed back to New York -- which now is inevitable, and which might happen with them holding a 3-2 lead.

"It's a lot better being 2-2 than 3-1," Carlos Delgado said. "He's been around for a long time. He's been in playoffs before. He knows what it takes, and we're just going to come out tomorrow and play good ball again."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.