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Rule change ensures Series continues

Rule change ensures Series continues

PHILADELPHIA -- The Rays were not, technically, down to their last out in the top of the sixth inning on Monday night. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig made that clear in a news conference after Game 5 of the World Series was suspended due to rain.

But not everyone knew that. Not everyone in the dugout knew it, and not everyone in the stands knew it. When the Rays' Carlos Pena singled home B.J. Upton with two outs to tie their game vs. the Phillies at 2-2, it felt very much like Pena had saved Tampa Bay's season.

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And maybe he did anyway.

The sixth inning started with Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who still has a shot at World Series MVP honors, striking out Akinori Iwamura and retiring Carl Crawford on a groundout. Philadelphia held a 2-1 lead when Upton reached on a grounder up the middle that shortstop Jimmy Rollins knocked down but could not make a play. It was ruled an infield single.

Once aboard, despite the muddy conditions, or perhaps because of them, Upton bolted for second.

"With the wet ball, everything's got to be perfect to be thrown out," Upton said.

It wasn't, and Upton's stolen base put him in scoring position for Pena.

Given an RBI chance, Pena converted, singling to left field to tie the game. Evan Longoria flied out, but the Rays had made it a new game just the same.

"I wasn't even thinking about the fact that the game was about to be called or suspended, to be honest with you," Pena said. "I wasn't. I didn't spend too much time thinking about that at all."

If nothing else, Pena struck a major blow against Hamels, and prevented the one situation the Rays must avoid -- a game where all the Phillies needed was to get nine outs from their bullpen to win the World Series title.

So while his RBI didn't avert a premature end to the game, it made the last three innings a lot more interesting, whenever they may be played. But at the time, some Rays really wondered whether the World Series would have been over if Pena had not tied the game.

"I really would not believe that that would be possible in a World Series game," said Pena, who ended a series-long slump with two hits. "I would doubt that that would go down, even though the rule says so. All of us talking in the clubhouse were like, 'There's no way that could have happened.' There's no way. You play nine innings. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Commissioner Selig cited rule 4.12(a)(6) in explaining the suspension of Game 5. According to the rule, enacted for the 2007 season, any official game halted with the score tied "shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date."

In this scenario, rule 4.12(c) for suspended games is enacted: "A suspended game shall be resumed at the exact point of suspension of the original game. The completion of a suspended game is a continuation of the original game. The lineup and batting order of both teams shall be exactly the same as the lineup and batting order at the moment of suspension, subject to the rules governing substitution. Any player may be replaced by a player who had not been in the game prior to the suspension. No player removed before the suspension may be returned to the lineup."

Prior to 1980, a game called due to inclement weather would have reverted back to the beginning of the inning, with the Phillies leading, 2-1, since Philadelphia did not bat in the bottom of the inning. In 1980, the "reverting back" was discontinued and the game was henceforth declared a suspended game. Rule 4.12(a)(6) was added after the 2006 season so that any tie game "called" after becoming official would be declared a suspended game. Therefore, Game 5 will resume with the score tied at 2.

Selig insisted that in such extenuating circumstances -- the potential ending game of a World Series -- he would not have allowed a game to be called before nine full innings. But the rule is the rule. As it stands now, it would have been cruel. Before 1980, it would have been even worse.

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

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