There are a lot of questions surrounding Game 3 of the Cardinals-Phillies first-round playoff series taking place this weekend at Busch Stadium.
First — Will there even be a Game 3? It’s a best-of-three matchup, which is set to begin Friday and continue Saturday. So it’s possible there won’t even be a third contest. But if there is, it would be played Sunday. But at what time? And what television network would show that one?
Those questions are unanswered, and probably will remain that way until Saturday evening.
As of now, the game — if needed — is scheduled to start at 7:37 p.m. and be shown on ESPN2. But results elsewhere could lead to a change in time and TV channel.
There are three other opening-round series going on this weekend, and the Walt Disney Company — which has the TV rights to all four matchups — has a big say on scheduling. It is spreading the telecasts across three of its networks — ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC (KDNL, Channel 30 locally).
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Cards-Phillies on Sunday is set for the latest start of the games, provided all the series go the distance. But if the game in St. Louis is the only one of the day, it would switch to 6:07 p.m. and be carried on ESPN. That’s the familiar slot in which “Sunday Night Baseball” airs most weeks.
If there are three games Sunday and one is in St. Louis, Cardinals-Phils would begin shorty after 6:30 p.m. and be on ESPN — unless it is the Seattle-Toronto series that has ended. In that case, the game at Busch would remain at 7:37 p.m. and be on ESPN2.
If there are just two games on Sunday and one is at Busch, that contest would move to shortly after 6:30 and be on ESPN.
Meanwhile, ESPN2 has Saturday’s game (7:37 p.m.) and there is a slight chance there could be a delay in that network joining the game. ESPN2 carries the North Carolina-Miami college football matchup beforehand, which begins at 3 o’clock — more than 4½ hours before first pitch. If it somehow overlaps (weather delay, multiple overtimes, etc.), ESPN2’s plans are to start the ballgame on ESPNews and the ESPN app then join when the football contest ends.
Michael Kay (play-by-play) and Alex Rodriguez (analysis) are the TV broadcasters for the series.
Many Cardinals fans were outraged two weeks ago when the game in which Albert Pujols hit his milestone 700th carrier home run, becoming just the fourth MLB player to achieve the feat, was not on a regular TV channel and instead was exclusively streamed on Apple TV+.
But 14 days later, there is a 180-degree turn. Game 1 of the series against the Phillies, at 1:07 p.m. Friday, is airing on Channel 30 — an old-fashion over-the-air station in which no subscription of any sort is needed to watch.
“Free over-the-air broadcast TV is still the dominant avenue for the viewing public,” Channel 30 general manager Tom Tipton said. “Anytime KDNL can carry one of the biggest programming attractions in the market (Cardinal baseball), it’s a real bonus for the television station and broadcast television.”
How big of a bonus is it for the station? Tipton, who has been with it for three decades, said he can’t remember the Cards ever being on Channel 30. It was not an ABC affiliate when that network had baseball decades ago.