- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

ST. LOUIS — Try as they might to get Game 4 in last night, a persistent rain at Busch Stadium forced baseball officials to postpone a World Series game for the first time in 10 years.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers will resume play tonight, with Game 5 now scheduled for tomorrow (originally an off-day).

A light rain fell throughout the day, but forecasters were hopeful it would subside shortly after last night’s scheduled 8:27 p.m. first pitch. Both teams waited through a 1-hour, 51-minute delay before Major League Baseball determined the conditions would not improve and called the game off at 10:18 p.m.

“It became apparent the front was not going to move through,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations.

It’s the first World Series rainout since Game 1 of the 1996 series between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves and only the second in the last 20 years, but more could be forthcoming. Even heavier rain is predicted for both tonight and tomorrow, leading to the possibility that the entire series could have to be put on hold for several days.

“That would be an unfortunate circumstance for us,” Solomon said. “But if we had to, we probably would.”

The washout could prompt both teams’ managers to revise their pitching rotations down the road. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa still plans to start Jeff Suppan in Game 4 against Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, but all bets are off after that.

La Russa already was considering skipping over rookie Anthony Reyes for Game 5, even though Reyes tossed an eight-inning gem to win Game 1 on Saturday at Comerica Park, and bringing back Jeff Weaver on short rest. Now, La Russa has the option of starting Weaver on normal rest, and though he wouldn’t commit to that last night, he appeared to be headed in that direction.

That also would allow St. Louis, which leads the series two games to one, to start ace Chris Carpenter in Game 6 and bring back Suppan for a potential Game 7 in Detroit.

“We’re in the [World] Series now,” La Russa said yesterday afternoon. “Anthony did a great job. Our three best starters are lined up to pitch the last three games, and they all come back with short rests, so that’s something you consider.”

Tigers manager Jim Leyland also could face an interesting decision if he wants to bring back left-hander Kenny Rogers (who hasn’t allowed a run in 23 innings this postseason) on three days’ rest to start Game 5, though it appears he will stick with rookie Justin Verlander and keep Rogers on schedule to pitch at home.

Tigers lineup shakeup

With three key offensive stars (Ivan Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco) hitless through the first three games of the series, Leyland had planned to shake up his lineup for last night’s game before it was postponed.

Polanco, who had been 0-for-10 hitting third, was bumped down to seventh and replaced by shortstop Carlos Guillen (5-for-10). Granderson (0-for-13) and Rodriguez (0-for-11) remained first and sixth, respectively, but first baseman Sean Casey was moved up to fifth.

It’s debatable whether lineup changes can have much effect at this stage of the season, but Leyland felt it was worth a shot yesterday to try to get his slumping club going.

“I’m not criticizing anybody, but right now in the lineup we have three guys that are 0-for-34 in combination,” Leyland said. “They’re hitting in every third spot. There’s only nine spots. … I think every once in a while you post the lineup, and it looks different and everybody looks back and takes it in. You hope something like that maybe shakes things up.”

The Tigers would love to get a rise out of Rodriguez, the perennial All-Star catcher who doesn’t have a hit in his last 23 at-bats dating back to the American League Championship Series.

“What can I do? I’m struggling at the plate,” Rodriguez said. “I’m swinging at bad pitches. I need to swing at strikes. If I do that, I’m going to hit the ball.”

Neutral site Series?

Brutal weather in both participants’ cities this week has raised an issue previously unheard of: Should baseball consider holding the World Series at a neutral site, a la the NFL with the Super Bowl?

There weren’t many supporters for that idea at Busch Stadium yesterday, despite the frigid temperatures and nonstop rain.

“I would never go for that,” Leyland said. “I love this. I don’t care how miserable it is. I think it would be a crying shame to take something like this away from the fans of St. Louis or the fans of Detroit. I would never go for that at all.”

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