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Royals, Rays postponed due to rain, snow

Santana's bid for career win No. 100 put on hold

KANSAS CITY -- The heavy, driving snow finally did it.

The Royals and the Rays played in rain for 3 1/2 innings on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, with Kansas City taking a 1-0 lead before being stopped by rain. The infield was fixed up and looked playable, but then the snowfall began with the temperature down to 37 degrees.

So, at 4:39 p.m. CT, the umpires finally gave up and waved off the game.

Tampa Bay is not scheduled to return to Kansas City this year, so making up the postponed game will require some study by all parties.

All the statistics compiled will not count -- like the game, they're wiped out.

Just when the Royals were just six outs from completing a 4 1/2-inning, 1-0 victory that would've given them a three-game sweep over the Rays.

Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur thought the necessary 4 1/2 innings could have been played before the delay if more drying agent had been applied immediately to the infield.

"My point was that, if they were going to do anything, take a five-minute break and throw a ton of dirt out there and let's play," Francoeur said.

Teammate Elliot Johnson, who scored the afternoon's lone run, agreed.

"Yeah, of course," Johnson said. "We're a little bit biased. If we're losing, probably not. But with me getting the run there, getting the stolen base, getting the hit and we're up 1-0, we want to get the six outs as quick as we can. And then everybody's happy and joyful and I get a Player of the Game T-shirt."

It's been a crazy time for the first-place Royals. This was their fourth postponement, three because of weather and one because of the terrorist manhunt in Boston. Two of those games have already been made up in day-night doubleheaders -- one at Boston, one in KC.

Counting five scheduled days off, the Royals have had nine days with no games in the first 32 days of their season. That includes Thursday's snowout.

The weather on Thursday was forbidding right from the 1:10 p.m. CT start.

As the game began, so did a light but steady rain. And it showed no signs of abating. Still the game went on, with the grounds crew dashing out between innings to scatter a drying compound on the dirt, which quickly became mud.

Umbrellas sprouted above the few fans that remained in uncovered seats. Fans in the upper deck were invited down below to join the couple thousand folks who were sheltered on the main level.

The fielders looked suitably uncomfortable, sticking their bare hands in rear pockets between pitches. Many of them wore face warmers, looking more like Alpine skiers than ballplayers. The pitchers sought firm footing as they delivered to batters squinting through raindrops.

All this, of course, in cold and windy conditions that made the 40-degree temperature at game time feel like 32 which, if memory serves, is freezing. By the fourth inning, there was enough water between first and second base to make a skating rink.

Both starting pitchers are from the warm climes of the Dominican Republic. Probably nobody warned them about this when they signed up years ago.

The Rays' Roberto Hernandez, previously known as Fausto Carmona, was the first to feel the frostbite of scoring. With one out in the Royals' third, the ex-Ray, Johnson, singled to right field and showed he was a mudder by galloping to a stolen base. He scored when Alex Gordon splashed a single under the soggy glove of second baseman Ben Zobrist.

Meanwhile, Royals starter Ervin Santana, who came into the game with 99 career wins, was racking up strikeouts. Through four innings, he had seven K's. He also issued two walks after not having any in his last two starts.

As the rain continued and the field conditions deteriorated, the umpires called a halt after 3 1/2 innings at 2:18 p.m. CT. They had played for an hour and eight minutes and the infield was covered.

The conditions were a bit dicey for the players.

"It was pretty wet and almost every player was running a little bit scared," Santana said. "It was nasty."

After a bit, the groundskeepers pulled off the portion of the tarpaulin that covered the first-second base area and began spreading a calcined clay drying agent to soak up the moisture. Then the area between third and second was uncovered for a similar procedure. Next came the home plate area and the connecting running lanes. Sacks and sacks of clay were used.

Then the rain picked back up and, around 4 p.m., when crew chief Ted Barrett popped into the visitors' dugout to have a look, snowflakes were in the mix. And before long, the snow was getting heavier -- so heavy that several Rays players were popping out to snap photos with their phones. Rare stuff. After all, they play in Florida -- and under a dome.

Most of the fans had already departed.

Before long, in the Royals' dugout, Alcides Escobar and Bruce Chen stood in the snow for a few moments. They don't see that in Venezuela or Panama.

Escobar and Mike Moustakas playfully raced onto the tarp and did a slide into second base through the snow.

By 4:35, the Royals were playing images of a warm, toasty fireplace across their video boards -- complete with a Christmas bow. Chestnuts roasting...

Four minutes later, the umpires officially called off the game.

Ahead for the Royals is a weekend series at home against the White Sox. For the Rays, a trip to Denver to play the Rockies. Or, perhaps, to go skiing.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals, Alex Gordon, Elliot Johnson, Ervin Santana