Rain delays, extra innings keep MLB up late

Two endings around 3 a.m. and another game that took 17 innings.

Several big league teams definitely went deep this week — deep into the night, that is.

It all started Thursday night in St. Louis when what appeared to be a routine interleague game turned into something else. Thanks to a marathon rain delay and a decision to wait it out, the Kansas City Royals wound up beating the Cardinals 4-2 after 3 o’clock in the morning.

“It was interesting. But for us, it’s good,” Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said.

Calling it a long night would be an understatement. Francoeur noticed the sun rising Friday as Kansas City’s plane landed in Texas and saw people having breakfast as the Royals arrived at their hotel near Dallas.

By late Friday, overnight baseball had turned into a trend.

The Tampa Bay Rays endured nearly five hours of rain delays in Cleveland before beating the Indians 9-2 for their sixth straight win in a game that began on Friday night in May and ended early Saturday in June.

Scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m., the game was delayed three times before finally resuming at 12:13 a.m. — 2 hours, 39 minutes after the third and longest delay.

“It’s a very awkward way to do this,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who spent the weather stoppages monitoring the storms on an iPad in his office. “But if you’re going to stick around that long you might as well win.”

The teams were delayed a total of 4:49, long enough for the calendar to change before nine innings were played. It ended at 2:53 a.m., giving them a short turnaround before a 1:05 p.m. start on Saturday.

About 20 minutes after the final out in Cleveland, the San Diego Padres pulled out a 4-3 victory over Toronto on Jesus Guzman’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the 17th inning.

The winning hit came three innings after the 14th-inning stretch. The game lasted 4:58 — and concluded after midnight on the West Coast.

Clayton Richard (1-5), who had been scheduled to start Saturday night, entered in the 16th and pitched two scoreless innings for the win in his first relief appearance since May 2009 with the Chicago White Sox.

“I was hoping I would get a win today. I was assuming it was going to be later in the day,” Richard said. “That’s the crazy thing about baseball. You never really know what you’re going to get. You come to the park thinking you’ve got a plan and it gets turned upside down. It was fun, though. That’s part of the fun of the game is being in situations where something different happens.”

The Royals and Cardinals should have known something was up Thursday when the first pitch was delayed an hour by rain.

The game moved quickly after that — right up until the top of the ninth inning, with the Royals leading and the rain back in force. Umpire crew chief Joe West had a decision to make.

With the game the last meeting between the two teams this season, a new rule added this year gave West the choice to call the game in a decision that would wipe out the top of the ninth and give the Cardinals a 2-1 win, based on the score from the previous completed inning.

West chose to wait out the rain. And wait. And wait some more.

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