Jeff Francouer noticed the sun rising as the plane landed and people having breakfast as the Kansas City Royals arrived at their hotel near Dallas.
Calling it a long night would be just a mild understatement.
What appeared to be a routine game at St. Louis on Thursday turned into something else thanks a marathon rain delay and a decision to wait it out.
The Royals wound up beating the Cardinals 4-2 in a game that ended well after 3 in the morning.
“It was interesting, but for us, it’s good,” said Francouer, the Royals’ outfielder.
Interesting is one way to put it.
The Royals and Cardinals should have known something was up when the first pitch was delayed an hour by rain.
The game moved quickly after that — right up until the top of the ninth inning, with the Royals leading and the rain back in force. Umpire crew chief Joe West had a decision to make.
With the game the last meeting between the two teams this season, a new rule added this year allowed West to call the game in a decision that would wipe out the top of the ninth and give the Cardinals a 2-1 win, based on the score from the previous completed inning.
West chose to wait out the rain. And wait. And wait some more.
After 4 1/2 miserable hours, the game resumed shortly after 3 a.m. CDT and the final out came at 3:14 a.m.
Kansas City left for a series in Texas and the Cardinals went home to sleep a bit before a home series against San Francisco.
The umpiring crew? They had a matinee in Chicago, with the first pitch scheduled just 10 hours after the final out in St. Louis.
“We worry about that game when we get to that one,” West told a pool reporter after the game. “We had to worry about this game.”
He declined comment on Friday
MLB spokesman Michael Teevan praised West and his crew for handling “a challenging situation very well.”
“We appreciate the efforts of both clubs, the umpires and particularly the Cardinals’ grounds crew, and we are glad that the game was played to completion,” he added.
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum shrugged off any concerns about sleep-deprived umpires calling Friday’s game against Arizona.
The Cubs extended their winning streak to five games with a 7-2 win over Arizona on Friday afternoon.
“Sometimes we get in at 3:15 in the morning . they don’t have to get to the park that early, so they get plenty of sleep,” he said of the umpires. “That’s not something that’s going to dictate the game.”
The near-capacity crowd of 43,916 in St. Louis was down to a couple hundred hardy souls when the game ended.
“Joe West did a tremendous job,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team snapped an eight-game skid with the victory.
“He was ready to wait as long as we could. He just felt that we were getting close to that point. He came into the office, Joe, we’ve got 15 minutes of rain left and it’s gone. He goes, well, that’s not what I heard. Look, let’s go outside. And we went outside, and it stopped raining.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak lobbied during the delay for an eight-inning St. Louis win. West said the Cardinals did not express their frustrations to him directly, made no statement and did not lodge a protest.
Either way, Matheny seemed less than thrilled with the decision to wait out the rain.
“I’m not going to sit here and start bashing the league for what’s going on,” he said. “But we certainly ended up on the short end of that and we can be paying for it for a couple of days here. There must be a bigger reward out there that I don’t see.”
Mozeliak said he was concerned about players getting injured because of the delay and the wet conditions, although he praised the grounds crew and added it would have been a “PR nightmare” if they “had to revert back to the eighth inning.”
“I did feel compelled that we try to get this game in because that would have been unfair to them had it just reverted back to the eighth,” Mozeliak said.
For the Royals, the long night wasn’t their first this week. They endured one getting to St. Louis after Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals in Kansas City.
Problems with their plane forced them to take a bus across the state, and they didn’t arrive until 5 a.m.
On Thursday, Royals catcher Adam Moore said no one took a nap during the long delay. Instead, they played cards.
“Until we saw that window come, and then they came in and gave us a head’s up, that we may have a time frame to go back out there,” he said. “We were just kind of hanging out in the clubhouse, trying to stay loose as best as we could.”
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum in New York and Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, and freelance writers Brian Sandalow in Chicago and Jason L. Young in St. Louis contributed to this report.