Wind and a steady rain eventually took over at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, and the ace left-hander was forced to adjust to the elements, which meant largely scrapping his curveball, the weakest pitch of his arsenal, and the changeup, which is his bread and butter.
The rain was affecting Hamels' grip, and he knew his best chance to get through this outing was to use what was working for him early.
The rain "was really affecting my changeup during warmups," he said. "That kind of was in the back of my head. When you go out there, knowing that's my best pitch, you can't really throw it as effectively. The last thing you want to do is hang it and the guy hit it over the fence. You had to stick with what was working all day and I was getting guys out with fastballs. I had to stick to it."
Hamels was forthright when asked how difficult it was to battle the weather conditions while maintaining his concentration during what is probably, but not definitely, his final appearance of the 2008 season. The surroundings were undoubtedly brutal, but they were brutal for everyone, and therefore, the playing field -- albeit wet and muddy -- was fair, in Hamels' estimation, for both sides.
"I didn't know if the rain was going to get worse," said Hamels, who had thrown only 75 pitches when the game was suspended in the middle of the sixth inning, tied at 2. "As I was pitching, it did, but that's the kind of situation where you have to just roll with it and not let it get into your head."
GAME 5 SUSPENSION
|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 game suspended after becoming official would be declared a suspended game. Therefore, Game 5 will resume with the score tied at 2.
Rays starter Scott Kazmir, who lasted only two batters into the fifth inning, admitted he had to fight to stay in the game from a mental standpoint. He struggled with his footing and discovered a few more challenges as the game progressed past the first inning, which Kazmir described as "pretty good."
"The weather just really wasn't looking good," he said. "You couldn't get good footing. Just didn't get that feel for the ball, with the cold and the wind and everything like that. It's just tough. But it was like that for both teams. It's just something you have deal with as a baseball player."
Hamels, who all but coasted through six innings of work, yielded a two-out base hit to B.J. Upton in the final inning, followed by a game-tying single to Carlos Pena, creating the perfect opportunity for baseball officials to suspend the game without any controversy that could have emerged had the Phillies maintained the lead.
Hamels categorized his final inning of work as the "worst-case imaginable that you could try to pitch in," although he tried to make the best of a very sloppy and dangerous situation.
"It's something you don't train [for], so you just have to go with it," he said. "You can't make excuses, because they had to throw in the rain, too. You just really have to make the best of it. Hitters had to hit in the rain, fielders had to field in the rain. Fortunately, nothing worse came out of it -- no one got injured."
Kazmir wasn't thinking about possible injuries while he was on the mound, but after he exited the game, he noticed how bad the field looked and wondered if they were setting themselves up for a potential disaster.
"Seeing B.J. out there -- and there were just puddles right next to him -- someone could have really gotten hurt," Kazmir said.
The Phillies loved their chances heading into this game, considering their ace was on the mound and they were one win away from clinching a World Series title. Now, they'll have to wait at least another day, but it'll be up to bullpen, not the starter, to finish off what Hamels started.
Needless to say, "it's not the way you want to finish the last start of the year," Hamels said. "You just have to let Mother Nature win. You have to go with it. I trust the bullpen and our hitters to go out there and finish this game off and bring a victory to Philadelphia."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less