With their National League Division Series tied at one game apiece and with no clear starter for Game 3 in Colorado tomorrow night, the Phillies face an uncertain future. But a swath of winter weather that is scheduled to move into the Denver area today could provide some unconventional relief.
According to MLB spokesman Pat Courtney, any postponement would result in the series schedule being shifted forward a day while eliminating Monday's travel day. So if tomorrow's game is postponed, Game 3 would take place on Sunday, followed by Game 4 on Monday and, if necessary, Game 5 on Tuesday. Such a schedule would enable both Game 1 starters - Cliff Lee for the Phillies and Ubaldo Jimenez for the Rockies - to pitch in Game 4 on normal rest. In the Phillies' 5-1 victory on Wednesday, Lee outdueled Jimenez in a complete-game masterpiece.
What are the chances of a postponement? The famously finicky weather in Denver makes it impossible to predict. But the high temperature during the day tomorrow is forecast to be in the low 30s, with a 50 percent chance of light freezing drizzle and snow. The forecast for the night - Game 3 is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., MDT - is even more ominous: A low temperature between 18 and 24 degrees along with a 30 percent chance of freezing drizzle, according to meteorologist Byron Louis of the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colo.
The identity of the coldest postseason game on record is unclear. But the coldest temperature at the start of a World Series game over the last 22 years was 38 degrees, set in Game 4 of the 1997 World Series in Cleveland between the Indians and Marlins.
Courtney said there is no concrete temperature threshold that would cause a game to be postponed due to the cold. But, he said, league officials meet regularly to discuss severe weather and extreme temperatures could factor into a decision to postpone a game.
Denver's forecast for Sunday is marginally better - highs in the upper 40s and lows in the lower 30s with a 30 percent chance of rain or snow.
TBS, which is scheduled to broadcast Game 3, will certainly provide its opinion to the league. But while Saturday night is generally believed to be the worst night for prime-time television, it isn't clear whether that would affect the network's thinking.
If the game is played, the weather could have an impact on who the Phillies decide to send to the mound. Manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday he would likely start either Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez, both righthanders, in Game 3. Blanton threw 19 pitches in relief in the Phillies' 5-4 loss yesterday but said he had no doubt that he would be at full strength in a potential Game 3 start. Martinez, who has made just two starts since throwing 130 pitches in a victory over the Mets on Sept. 13 and threw 84 pitches in his regular-season finale on Sept. 30, said he was preparing as if he would start Game 3. Both players downplayed concerns about the cold.
"If you think it's cold and you think you're going to feel cold and you think it's going to affect you, then it will," said Blanton, who is 28 years old and is considered to be one of the more durable pitchers on the Phillies staff, having made at least 31 starts in each of his five full seasons in the majors. "If you go out with the mind-set that it's not going to, then it won't. Obviously, 20 to 30 degrees is cold, there's no getting around that, but it is what you make it."
Martinez, 37, has battled health problems the last three seasons, the most recent of which occurred in mid-September when he suffered a stiff neck that caused him to miss a start.
"I have pitched in 30-somedegrees, and if not, it has gotten to that point in those days in Boston and Cleveland and New York," said Martinez, who has started 11 postseason games in his career, most recently in 2004 with the Red Sox. "It has gotten cold. So I'm looking forward to just doing whatever I can."
While Charlie Manuel admits that Raul Ibanez isn't running as well now as he was before he went on the disabled list with a groin injury in June, he doesn't necessarily envision using a defensive replacement for the veteran leftfielder in the late innings of games at expansive Coors Field.
"It depends on the situation in the game and where we're at," Manuel said. "Believe me, that's why I've got coaches like [first-base coach] Davey Lopes. If we feel that way or something like that, he'll come by and remind me, just make sure that it's on my mind or I know about it or something like that. We can adjust.
"But at the same time, Raul has been playing pretty good in the outfield all year long. His defense has been pretty good. I mean, very good. I haven't been taking him out, if you notice, hardly ever. But that doesn't mean that we won't if we feel like the situation [dictates it], if he's having trouble running."
The sellout crowd of 46,528 was the largest ever at Citizens Bank Park, eclipsing the total set in Game 1 . . . Rightfielder Jayson Werth has hit safely in 11 consecutive postseason games . . . Centerfielder Shane Victorino, who went 3-for-5 with a run, had his fifth career multihit postseason game. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.