In the midst of a ninth-inning rally that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead over the Cardinals on Thursday night, heavy rain forced the game to stop at 10:32 p.m. CT. It had already started an hour late, at 8:15 p.m. CT, because of rain.
The Cardinals hoped the umpires would wave off the game because, if that happened, they would win, 2-1, as the score would have reverted to what it was at end of the last completed inning. Under most other circumstances the game could have been suspended, with the Royals leading, but that wasn't an option in this case because of a new rule introduced this year.
It's Rule 4.12(b)(4) and, if the affected game happens to be the last one scheduled between two teams, it's a called game and whatever runs the visiting team has scored in the top of an uncompleted inning are wiped out.
In other words, West had two options: Wait out the rain and finish the game or call it, in which case St. Louis would have won.
"We had to fight hard to keep it. And Joe West did a great job of giving us an opportunity," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Because that wouldn't be fair for us to come back and just lose because it started raining. Joe hung in there and said, 'I'll stay here as long as we've got a chance.' I mean it was 3 o'clock when we went back out there. I don't know how many umpires would've done that."
Especially since West and his crew were scheduled to call a day game on Friday in Chicago. They had a limo driver waiting to take them to the Windy City.
"We worry about that [next] game when we get to that one," West said. "We had to worry about this game tonight."
The umpires waited and waited and waited -- a total of four hours and 32 minutes. The game resumed, yawn, at 3:04 a.m. CT.
"In all cases when it's the last trip in, the umpires make every effort to get the game played in entirety so that the game itself determines the outcome," West said.
When the rain let up a bit, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and Yost joined the umpires and other officials on the field as the grounds crew checked it out.
"Mike Matheny did not want to play. He just said, 'It's too soft, I don't want to get anybody hurt,'" Yost said. "I said, 'I don't want to get anybody hurt either. But just walk the infield and any soft spot you want to fix, fix and we'll wait here until it's fixed or it starts raining. But my guys are ready to go.'"
Meantime, Royals general manager Dayton Moore was on the phone to MLB official Joe Torre.
"I thought it was bad," Matheny said. "And I thought our grounds crew did a tremendous job getting it to where we could put people out there. It just got down to a situation -- and I explained it to the team, too -- that if this comes down to one of my guys getting hurt, it's a big deal. Fortunately, they got it to where we could play."
The infield and the mound were covered with absorbent clay that was raked over and into the dirt.
The Royals didn't score again after the long delay but, after the final six outs were accomplished, they were still on top.
To review: the game, originally scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. CT, finally ended at 3:14 a.m., almost eight hours later. Official game time in the box score: 2:27.
"It's definitely one of the craziest nights in professional baseball I think any of us have had," the Royals' Eric Hosmer said.
The Royals' new interim hitting coach, George Brett, admired the determination of his new charges.
"This was a tough day," Brett said. "But what amazed me is that these guys wanted to stay and finish the game. They all wanted to finish, they wanted a chance to win a ballgame. And normally when things are going bad, they're 'Hey, big deal, what's one more loss, let's get the heck out of here.' We're not going to get to Texas and the sun's going to be coming up. But they were real excited to stay, with a four-hour rain delay and 10 people in the stands. It was a big thrill for 'em."
Not only had the Royals lost 19 of their previous 23 games, they'd started this trip with a charter flight that was scrubbed because of mechanical problems. Instead, they made a four-hour bus trip to St. Louis that got them in at 4 a.m. CT on Wednesday. So they were used to all-nighters.
"Anything you throw at 'em, they keep plugging, man," Yost said.
Maybe that changed their luck. After the victory, Francoeur had an idea.
"We're thinking about busing to Arlington, actually," Francoeur said.