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    Saturday, January 28, 2023

    MLB postpones Game 3 of the World Series amid inclement weather in Philadelphia

    Fans leave Citizens Bank Park before Game 3 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday in Philadelphia. The game was postponed by rain Monday night with the matchup tied 1-1. Game 3 is now scheduled for Tuesday. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)
    Rain falls at Citizens Bank Park before Game 3 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday in Philadelphia. The game was postponed by rain Monday night with the matchup tied 1-1. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)
    The field is covered with the threat of rain before Game 3 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. The game was eventually postponed. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

    Philadelphia — If the Philadelphia Phillies were at all anxious about hosting their first World Series game since 2008 on Monday night, they did not show it in the usual ways. Backup catcher Garrett Stubbs arrived at the field wearing a taco costume. Infield coach Bobby Dickerson took the field wearing a wrinkled monster mask contraption in which he was almost unrecognizable. And despite all that, they still seemed relatively emotionally stable.

    But by about 5:30 p.m. on Halloween night, the tarp was on the field at Citizens Bank Park and word was spreading to managers, players and reporters that the forecast had grown ominous enough that the game might be postponed. Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the news became official: Major League Baseball postponed Game 3 of the World Series to Tuesday, pushing Game 4 to Wednesday and Game 5 to Thursday. Instead of Saturday, Game 7 would be Sunday night, if needed.

    It is possible that Monday's weather made a Game 7 more likely — or at least, made the Phillies' chances in this series significantly better. If the Phillies had played Monday night, they would have pitched right-hander Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard has only pitched 5.1 innings in this postseason and did not carry a heavy innings load down the stretch. If the Phillies relied on him Monday, they might be grateful to get a few innings out of him then turn things over to the bullpen. Perhaps it would work.

    But because of the rain, Phillies Manager Rob Thomson could turn to lefty Ranger Suárez, who pitched in relief in Game 1. Suárez has thrown 261.1 innings in the last two seasons and is pitching to a 2.72 ERA. He has a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 postseason innings. He is, in other words, more of a sure thing.

    And because Game 4 moves from Wednesday to Thursday, Aaron Nola would be available for that game instead of Game 5, Zack Wheeler for Game 5 instead of Game 6. The extra day offers the Phillies a chance to skip rotation uncertainty. But of course, it offers the Astros the same luxury.

    The difference, perhaps, is that the Astros generally have less pitching uncertainty. Their bullpen is deep. Their rotation is deep. So while the rainout would mean Justin Verlander could return on full rest for Game 4 instead of Game 5, the Astros would not exactly have been at a loss if they had needed to use Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 3 and Cristian Javier in Game 4. In fact, Houston Manager Dusty Baker said Monday afternoon that McCullers would still start Game 3 on Tuesday. He would not commit to moving Verlander to Game 4 instead of Javier, though he did admit "we're considering it."

    "We're also considering would the extra day's rest do him well, too," Baker said. Verlander has started eight World Series games and never recorded a win in any one of them. Most recently, Verlander — a highly credible candidate for the 2022 American League Cy Young Award at 39 years old — was unable to hold a five-run lead against the Phillies in Game 1. Perhaps of all the Astros starters, he is the least of the sure things at the moment.

    The postponement does not eliminate the day off between Games 5 and 6 as it did when rain interrupted the division and league championship series. Had it meant the teams would have to play five straight days with a late flight to Houston between Games 5 and 6, the change would almost certainly have benefited the Astros. Their bullpen is deeper. Their pitching staff is deeper. They could withstand five games in five days better than the Phillies, both in the rotation and in relief. But that did not happen, which perhaps represents another break for Philadelphia.

    And the Phillies know better than the Astros what can happen when games start in the rain. Their stunning Game 5 win over the San Diego Padres — the Bryce Harper homer game, forevermore — was played on a sloppy, muddy field in a steady, drenching rain. Monday's forecast called for rain off and on at the absolute best, meaning the teams would have had to play through some. Thomson said experiencing one rain game did not necessarily mean his team would be better prepared for another.

    "I don't know how you would (make it easier) either because you just couldn't keep the balls dry. It was raining so hard," Thomson said. "And I don't think MLB or anybody, Astros or us, we want to get into that scenario again. I think they're going to be pretty careful with that."

    So they were, as the league held multiple pregame meetings to evaluate the evolving forecast, then decided to call it. Game 3 will be played in November and Philadelphia will wait one more day to host its first World Series game since 2008.

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