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10/28/08 5:45 PM EST

Best 'pen will write ending to Game 5

Rays avoid Hamels, but Phils' relievers are some of the best

PHILADELPHIA -- It's strange, it's weird, it's unprecedented. But it's also baseball.

Game 5 of the World Series was suspended by rain and has been postponed again by rain. We're in territory here that is both uncharted and extremely wet. But when Game 5 is resumed -- and it eventually will be resumed -- it will come down to something as basic as a battle of the bullpens.

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When we last left the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays, they were very damp and tied at 2-2 after the top of the sixth inning on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. The suspension at that point meant that Phillies starter Cole Hamels, at 4-0 the best pitcher of this postseason, would be unavailable for the resumption of Game 5.

The people looking at that as a positive turn of events were the Rays.

"That's a pretty good feeling, obviously," Rays manager Joe Maddon said in a teleconference on Tuesday. "He has been so good, and to scratch out the runs that we've had has been very difficult. Of course, their bullpen has been magnificent, also. So it's not going to be an easy task by any means. But we have a lot of our bullpen fresh, now, too. So getting him out is important.

"I think us coming back like we did and sitting on it for a day or two possibly could weigh in our favor a little bit. I'm not sure yet. But I think the most important part of it is that both bullpens are rested. There's no telling what's going to happen at this point."

Hamels had given up two runs in six innings on Monday night. This was well above his postseason norm because he had a 1.55 ERA in the playoffs. But he was still working efficiently, with 75 pitches through six innings.

"I felt like he definitely was on course to go like at least seven innings, more like eight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in his own teleconference. "He was our best pitcher, and we were going to try to get the most out of him, of course."

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.

With Rays starter Scott Kazmir out of the game, the scene will shift to the two bullpens. With any luck, this will happen on Wednesday night, the date tentatively set for the resumption of Game 5.

This is where the Phillies have an edge on anybody. Setup man Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge have a combined postseason ERA of 1.33, and Lidge remains perfect in save opportunities for the calendar year, converting 47 of 47. Tampa Bay's bullpen has also been a strength, even more so now with the arrival of rookie David Price, but the Philadelphia bullpen has been peerless.

"I think the way it sets up right now is we've got a good bullpen," Manuel said. "And I feel like we feel like we're strong, and we can win and we're going to be ready to play the game. And I think it definitely looks like for us it's going to be a bullpen game."

Also in the Phillies' favor is the math, the very simple math, of a game suspended after 5 1/2 innings.

"We get to bat four times, they get to bat three," Manuel said. "We get 12 outs, they get nine."

On the Rays' side of the issue, two middle-of-the-order mainstays in their lineup seem to have awakened. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria were a combined 0-for-29 in the Series coming into this game, but Longoria had a hit and an RBI in Game 5 and Pena had two hits and the RBI that tied the score at 2. If these two are truly back at anything like their usual level, that's a huge lift for the Rays.

Everybody guesses about the effects that this first suspended World Series game will have. But nobody really knows. Will the players be rested and refreshed and at perfect competitive pitch when the series resumes? Or will they be out of sorts with the whole deal? Or will one team be rested and refreshed and the other team out of sorts? We just have to wait for the rain to stop so that we can see for sure.

The resumption of Game 5 will not be like any other World Series game you have seen, because no other World Series game you have seen has started in the bottom of the sixth inning. It should be one of the most dramatic chapters in World Series history. Now, if we can just get the rain to make some room for the drama.

"You know, it's kind of like overtime in a sense, I guess," Maddon said. "Or 'sudden victory,' as Curt Gowdy would say."

This will be a brand new October experience for baseball. But it will be the same as ever in another way. This Fall Classic outcome will depend on the pitching. But because it will begin in the bottom of the sixth, it will depend on the relievers, rather than the starters.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.