PHILADELPHIA - Citizens Bank Park became a scene right out of a scary movie Thursday afternoon.
Wind howled and rain whirled around the stadium as lightning criss-crossed the sky and hail pelted everything and everyone in sight.
"I was waiting for the cows to fly through," Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said.
A severe thunderstorm interrupted Philadelphia's 12-3 win over the Cleveland Indians with just four outs left in the game. The 1-hour, 37-minute rain delay turned into one of the most eventful tarp experiences in the Bank's seven-year history.
As the 20-man crew put the tarp on the field under dark skies, wind gusts picked up and ripped the tarp right out of many of their hands. The tarp only covered half the diamond as the rain swirled around the ballpark and fans ducked for cover.
"I've never seen that happen in 16 years," said Philadelphia head groundskeeper Mike Boekholder, of Bear, Del.
The grounds crew even tried to use a small tractor to hold the tarp down, but the machine was pushed out of the way by the wind gusts as if it were a plastic toy.
The storm somewhat overshadowed Philadelphia's third straight win and sixth in the last eight games. Additionally, it was the Phillies' first home series sweep of the season and first winning homestand (4-2) since April 30-May 9 (10 games, 7-3).
Joe Blanton put together back-to-back quality starts for the first time this year. He pitched until the storm chased him off the mound with one out to go in the eighth. He gave up three runs, struck out eight and walked none.
"I was conscious of (mechanical issues)," said Blanton, who ventured out for a peek at the storm during its worst time. "I created such bad muscle memory that doing it right felt wrong. I have to get back to the point where it's like second nature again."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made some noise himself in the second inning. Manuel was tossed for the second time in three days. It was his 29th ejection of his career and fourth of the season.
Manuel argued on Shane Victorino's behalf saying the speedster didn't run out of the first-base line as his team scored five runs in the inning.
"Today Blanton was good. He used his pitches and changed speeds good," Manuel said. "I might think about that (getting kicked out) less. It's like losing on the road. You go back to your hotel and there's no one there. It's boring."
Things were far from boring during the rain delay. Some of the Phillies thought they would sit it out in the dugout, but Jayson Werth knew what was coming. Once the hail started to fall, the players ran inside.
"I told Shane Victorino there was no way they were getting the tarp on with the wins coming," said Werth, who grew up in Illinois and has seen some terrible storms. "I guess it never storms like that in Hawaii."
The storm was reminiscent of an incident in 2007. The Phillies were in Denver when a big storm hit with similar wind conditions. One of the Colorado Rockies groundscrew members got caught under the tarp and members of the Phillies helped get him out and secured the tarp on the field.
"Our guys know if they start having the tarp get away from them, the easiest thing to do is let go," Boekholder said. "People get hurt when they don't let the tarp go. We always worry about people getting hurt when it gets like that. There were no injuries today."
Extra bases: Roy Halladay takes the mound for the Phillies tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays. The series was originally in Toronto, but was moved to Philadelphia over security concerns for the G20 Summit, which is in the Canadian city. This is the first time Halladay he will face the team that traded him during the offseason. Halladay pitched for Toronto for 12 seasons. … Dane Sardinha hit his first Major League home run in the sixth inning. … The Phillies sold out its 77th straight home game with and attendance of 45,085.
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