Monday, April 28, 2008

O's Game Suspended at 3-3 Tie

CHICAGO -- That's not a swamp. It's an infield.

The Orioles and White Sox were delayed by more than two hours and still played 11 innings in a driving rainstorm on Monday, only to see the game get suspended with the scored tied at 3 due to an unplayable field. Baltimore tied the game in the ninth inning, and both teams traded runs in the 11th before the umpires decided it was too perilous to keep playing.

The infield sported some large mud puddles at that point, and some players in both clubhouses wondered why the game even started. According to crew chief and third-base umpire Rick Reed, there was no alternative.

"This is the last time the Orioles and the White Sox meet here, so it was up to us to make every effort to get the game in, which I think we did by playing 11 innings," Reed said. "We feel that we gave them every chance to do that. Unfortunately, they kept tying the game up and nobody could win in regulation. And then the field just became unplayable."

The tarp remained on the field for two hours before the game began, and the umpires heard a weather report that there might be a brief window to get the game in. They started it under that assumption, but the rain never really relented. Both pitchers had to struggle through the conditions, and several players said they'd never seen anything like it before.

"I've never been in a game like that -- playing 11 innings under the rain and all of a sudden we stop," said Chicago starter Javier Vazquez, who fired eight strong innings despite the weather. "But the field was in terrible condition."

"I don't think the game should've been started," said Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez. "It was really cold and rainy. The field was wet. You can hurt the pitcher. A guy can pull a hamstring because you never get warmed up. After [11] innings, why are you stopping the game now? You should finish like that. It [doesn't] matter. We shouldn't have started."

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts dissented from that view, saying the field was fine in the early innings and the close nature of the game dictated the situation at the end.

"It's just frustrating to play that long and have it end like that," said Roberts, who scored the game-tying run in the ninth. "But you also don't want to lose a game because a guy can't throw the ball across the infield."

Reed said the grounds crew put more than 2 1/2 tons of drying agent on the field during the course of the game and that they did everything possible to ensure the safety of the players.

Near the end of the game, though, he got a few up-close examples of how the field was beginning to be unplayable.

"The water was all rising to the top after you took the quick-dry stuff off," he said. "For instance, on Roberts' steal of third base in the ninth inning, he just went splash. He wasn't going to get all that stuff out of him until he showered, I'm sure."

There is no proposed makeup date at the moment, and Reed said this game was unique in his recent memory.

"It's the first time we've had to invoke a suspended-game rule, and these two teams will pick up from this point on," the veteran umpire said. "We have to phone that in, and we're not like the teams where we have a lot of travel [options]. We're in New York [on Tuesday], and our flight was leaving at 7:15. We obviously missed that flight, so we'll see what we can come up with later on."


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