One of the most bizarre night/mornings in Wrigley Field history unfolded Tuesday into Wednesday.
A brief but strong rainstorm that lasted maybe 20 minutes caused a delay that went from 8:42 p.m. Tuesday night to well past midnight and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Finally, at 1:16 a.m., the umpires called the game because of a wet infield, and by rule, the Cubs walked away with a 2-0 victory.
The rain hit as the Cubs were about to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning leading the San Francisco Giants 2-0 on a first-inning 2-run homer by Anthony Rizzo. It was Rizzo's 29th homer of the year.
As the rain began lightly, umpires made no effort to stop the game and call on the grounds crew to bring out the tarp. A few minutes later, though, the skies opened with heavy rain and strong winds.
The grounds crew did its best to get the tarp onto the field, but between the heavy rain and wind, members had trouble moving the tarp, causing much of the infield to be soaked with water and resembling quicksand.
After the damage was done, the grounds crew worked for more than two hours to make the field playable.
After that, there was very little activity on the field as the entire ballpark went into wait-and-see mode. Neither the umpires, led by crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt, nor Major League Baseball, made any announcements leading up to 1 a.m. as to what they were waiting for. As it turned out, they were waiting for the infield dirt to dry, which it evidently did not do.
A few hundred hearty fans stuck around, at times yelling for play to begin and at times breaking into applause to get the proceedings moving.
At about 1:30 a.m., Cubs President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer met with reporters, with both saying they wanted the game to be finished in fairness to the Giants. Epstein pointed that the only way for the game to have been suspended and picked up later in the day would be if the tarp were part of a mechanical system. Because the tarp was put on manually, the only conclusion the umpires could have reached was to call it an official game and award the victory to the Cubs.
"There was nothing we could put our hat on to suspend the game," said Wendelstedt, speaking to a pool reporter.
Hoyer and Epstein sounded almost apologetic.
"We wanted to wait as long as we possibly could because the Giants are in a pennant race and because we felt an obligation as an organization to do that," Hoyer said.
"I was talking to the umpires a lot tonight," Hoyers said. "Theo was talking to MLB (Major League Baseball) trying to make it so we could play this game the way it should be played. Obviously, it didn't happen and it's unfortunate. I don't think anyone takes any particular pride in winning a game 2-0 in five innings in a situation lie that. Those are the rules, but as an organization, we really made a good-faith effort to try to play this game for the right reasons because it is a situation where they're in a pennant race and we anted to give them an opportunity to play a full nine innings."
Hoyer said no one was to blame for the field conditions. Head groundskeeper Roger Baird is considered one of the best in baseball.
"I don't think anyone's at fault," Hoyer said. "It was a flash storm. The Cell (U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox played Tuesday night) didn't get any rain whatsoever. It really showed up on the radar really late, and it was much harder than we thought. The volume of the storm was much harder than anyone expected. The tarp probably started getting on the field later than it usually does. Those guys are working with such alacrity to get the tarp out there it became difficult to pull because it was so heavy. It probably got a little off-kilter. Those guys did an incredible job. Our grounds crew is fantastic."
Wendelstedt said the weather reports they received had the rain lasting 5-10 minutes and being a light rain.
"No one had facts that saw this coming," the umpire said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was understandably upset.
"Look, I'm frustrated and beside myself," he said. "I'm probably not in the right frame of mind. I hope they listen and watch what happened there, because in this day and time ... it can't happen with the importance of these games. I'm gonna leave it at that."
As far as baseball goes, the Cubs are beginning a stretch of games against contending teams, beginning with the Giants and continuing this weekend when the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles move from the South Side to the North Side during a weeklong visit to Chicago.
The Cubs are far from being contenders, but they can be spoilers. That's a role no team likes, but Renteria said the Cubs will embrace it the best they can.
"It's a test," Renteria said before the game. "These guys are going out every single game trying to prove to the other team that they belong with them. We certainly have to minimize any kind of mistakes we make. We're playing contending teams. The reason they're in contending positions is they have a combination of skills and a combination of playing the game a certain way."
Tsuyoshi Wada was the starting pitcher for the Cubs, and he pitched all 5 innings to improve to 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA. The 33-year-old lefty has done a creditable job since coming up from Class AAA Iowa, originally on July 8 and then again later in July. It's possible Wada could figure into the Cubs' rotation plans for next year.
"No doubt," Renteria said. "I think he's come in and done a really nice job. This is the first time I've see him. Obviously, the organization signed him for a reason originally. The way he's performed is probably the one thing they were hoping to get, and he's done a nice job. He's given us some good innings, some good starts. He went down to the minor leagues and kind of got himself straightened out. He came back and has been very good for us."