KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Snow. That’s right, snow. In May.
The Royals and Tampa Bay Rays tried to play through an icy rain on a miserable Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, but Mother Nature wheeled out bigger weapons — sleet and snow — and wouldn’t be denied.
The Royals held a 1-0 lead when umpire crew chief Ted Barrett ordered the tarp placed over the field after 3 1/2 innings. It was 2:19 p.m., and he had little choice. Conditions had deteriorated from sloppy to deplorable.
When the game was officially called off 2 hours, 20 minutes later at 4:39 p.m., none of what happened officially took place. That includes four scoreless innings and seven strikeouts by Royals starter Ervin Santana.
The Royals weren’t happy.
“If you play four innings, why not play one more?” left fielder Alex Gordon asked. “What’s the point? But that’s what it is. We’re just going to have to cancel another off day and play again.
“We’re not going to have any off days at the end of the year. Should be fun.”
The game will be replayed in its entirety at a yet-to-be-determined date.
That makeup date, presumably, will require the Rays to make a one-day trip back to Kauffman Stadium, although the teams could also play the game in June when the Royals make their only visit to Tampa Bay.
“It was an ill-conceived idea from the beginning,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It didn’t look good from jump street. I respect what the umpires did.
“I thought Teddy Barrett handled it really well calling it when he did. Like he told me, we lost the field. That was the phrase he used, and I think he was absolutely correct.
“They did the best they possibly could, but it’s not going to get any better. I think they did the right thing. It’s not just about playing 4 1/2 or five innings. It’s about playing nine. And if you can’t play nine, I think it’s the appropriate thing to do.”
The Royals disagreed.
“When they first put the tarp on, the field was unplayable,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “No doubt. At that point, though, you throw out all the (drying compound) you have — especially since (the Rays) are not coming back (to KC).
“Try to get five innings in. If they’re up 2-1, good for them. If we’re up 1-0, good for us. They knew coming into this game that we weren’t playing nine innings. Everybody did.”
The clubs have three open dates in common over the season’s remaining months, but each requires players union approval because all would force the Royals to play more than the permissible maximum of 20 days in a row.
The grounds crew coated the infield’s dirt surfaces in a quick-dry solution during a brief respite from the elements but had no choice but to re-stake the tarp when the rain resumed.
“I can’t control it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I try not to get frustrated over things I can’t control. I can’t control the weather. You just deal with it.
“We were three outs from winning a game, but it didn’t happen. So we go back and play it again at a later date.”
The forecast isn’t much better for Friday, when the Royals are scheduled to open a three-game weekend series against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Temperatures are supposed to top out in the upper 30s with a likelihood of measurable snow — something unrecorded in Kansas City in more than a century.
Is it a coincidence that the Royals (15-10) occupy first place in the American League Central Division?
The sleet/snow mix reached such intensity shortly after 4 p.m. that several players from both clubs came to their dugouts armed with phones to snap pictures.
“It’s not just us,” Yost said. “There are a lot of teams that are dealing with weather. It’s not going to get any better this weekend, and it’s not going to get any better (next week) in Baltimore.
“Again, you can allow yourself to get frustrated over it. Or you just adjust to it. Do what you can do. That’s all you can do.”
The Royals scored their run after Elliot Johnson, making a third straight start at second base, lined a one-out single to right in the third inning against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona).
Johnson stole second before scoring when a Gordon grounder squirted through second baseman Ben Zobrist for an RBI single.
“I really don’t believe that ball would’ve gotten by (Zobrist) in normal conditions,” Maddon said. “That ball just skipped.”
It was, officially, 41 degrees with a 20-mph north wind when Santana delivered the game’s first pitch at 1:10 p.m. to Desmond Jennings. That translated to a wind-chill factor of 32 degrees.
Santana said it was the worst weather he’s ever pitched in — or ever expects to pitch in.”
“Really bad,” he said. “It was hard (to grip the ball). … I don’t think it’s going to get worse than that.”
Only it soon got worse.
It started to drizzle before Santana retired the Rays in the first inning. By then, it was clearly a race against nature.