By Sam Bush
The Phillies and Nationals were rained out last night and will make it up today, God willing, with a day-night doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park.
The Braves beat the Giants in San Francisco 4-1, so they lead the Phils in the NL East by five games, four in the loss column.
By the time the rain cleared yesterday afternoon, the grounds crew did not have enough time to dry the field using traditional methods, and the Phillies acknowledged the possibility that the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start might need to be delayed despite the weather being clear. By 7:10 p.m., word spread. The game was postponed, to be played as part of a true doubleheader starting at 3:05 p.m. today.
“The field wasn’t tarped Friday night because we were supposed to get a very small amount of rain. If you tarp the field 24 hours a day, it will turn brown and it will die, so it’s an on-off situation,” said Howard Smith, a Phillies senior official. “We didn’t tarp it Friday night. In retrospect, had I known it was going to be this much rain, we would have tarped it. We didn’t, damage was done, and now we’re just playing catch-up.”
By “playing catch-up,” Smith meant “blowtorching the field with an emergency fleet of blowtorches attached to propane tanks sitting in wheelbarrows being pushed slowly across the infield.” The Phillies did not keep blowtorches on hand. This was a recent idea aimed at drying out the top layer of dirt enough that they could rake the field and add drying agent.
Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt wanted official player input, so eventually Nationals player representative Max Scherzer charged out of the dugout to meet the brain trust. Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins came out, too.
“Hoskins and I, we both stepped on it and said this is unplayable. And talking to the grounds crew they just didn’t think there was going to be enough time to get the field at a playable condition,” Scherzer said. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘If we started tonight and somebody got hurt, we would both feel pretty guilty about doing that.’ ”
“I think everybody saw the flamethrowers,” Hoskins said.