PHILADELPHIA -- Not even a bunch of blowtorches could save the Phillies-Nationals game Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.The Phillies grounds crew left Friday with a favorable weather forecast, so they kept the tarp rolled up and off the field. But instead of a projected quarter-inch of rain they received
PHILADELPHIA -- Not even a bunch of blowtorches could save the Phillies-Nationals game Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies grounds crew left Friday with a favorable weather forecast, so they kept the tarp rolled up and off the field. But instead of a projected quarter-inch of rain they received more than 1 1/2 inches. It typically would not be a problem, except heavy rains over the weekend continued through Monday and never allowed the field to dry.
The Phillies and Nationals will play a traditional doubleheader beginning at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday. Jacob Arrieta and Nick Pivetta will pitch for the Phillies, although the order has not been announced.
"It didn't stop long enough during the day [on Monday] to fix the field during the day," Phillies executive vice president David Buck said. "They were trying. At one point, we even talked about a helicopter to come in and dry it off."
The helicopter never materialized, but after traditional means of drying the field failed, the Phillies brought in blowtorches. They had five firing at one point, trying to get the field ready to play. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said around 4 p.m. that he expected to play. About 30 minutes later, Phillies vice president of business affairs Howard Smith echoed the sentiment.
Bucks said even as late as 6:30 p.m. they believed they could get the infield ready.
Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said stepping on the field felt like pudding. Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins, who is the team's union representative, called the field "spongy." Arrieta said the same thing.
"Obviously, first and foremost, we're worried about player safety out there," Hoskins said. "It was just decided and talked about that the surface … we didn't feel safe as players. I think a big thing was we didn't want people compensating for what the surface was and potentially having an injury that way."
Because this is the last time the Nationals play in Philadelphia, ultimately MLB had the final decision on whether or not to play. But this sounded like a collective decision as Phillies and Nationals officials met on the field to discuss the situation with the umpires and player representatives, Hoskins and Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
Nationals slugger Bryce Harper walked onto the field at one point, pretending to slip a couple times before raking some of the infield and spreading around a drying agent.
"In retrospect, had I known that it was going to be this much rain, we would have tarped it," Smith said. "We didn't. The damage was done, and now we're just playing catch up."
"If any one of the days, the sun comes out for two hours, you're fine," Buck said. "It never did."
Phillies director of field operations Mike Boekholder, who is the head groundskeeper, was not made available to comment. But he and his crew continued to work on the field long after the Phillies officially postponed the game. Eventually, the blowtorches were put away. By 9:30 p.m. the field appeared to be in much better shape, although the crew rolled out the tarp as a light rain began to fall.
Gates will open at 2:05 p.m. ET Tuesday. All fans holding tickets to Monday's game may exchange their tickets for any remaining regular-season home game in 2018 -- including Tuesday's doubleheader -- or any April or May home game in '19 (excluding Opening Day). According to weather.com, there is a 75 percent chance of rain at first pitch.
"It's going to be a feat for tomorrow, I think," Eaton said. "We'll see what happens."
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.