It’s no longer “if the rain comes,” as the Beatles sang. The rain is here.
What is supposed to be a lengthy downpour throughout the Chicagoland area started Tuesday evening and postponed Game 4 of the NLDS, pushing things back to 3:08 p.m. Wednesday at Wrigley Field. So the Cubs, just a win away from advancing to their third straight NLCS, will have to wait another day to go for a clinch.
But while last fall’s postseason rainstorm was a welcome sight for the Cubs, this time around the inclement weather could wind up going the opposite way for the North Siders.
They seemingly dodged a bullet when Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker announced that Tanner Roark will still be his team’s starting pitcher for the now-rescheduled Game 4, a surprising move considering Stephen Strasburg — who no-hit the Cubs into the sixth inning in Game 1 of this series — would figure to be ready to go on regular rest.
But with Baker making some comments about Strasburg — and much of his team — being “under the weather” due to changing temperatures inside and outside of their Chicago hotel, apparently the guy who struck out 10 Cubs batters this past Friday isn’t as ready as he seems. That means the Cubs get another crack at a pitcher who while still good isn’t the elite arm that Strasburg is.
Still, the nearly 24-hour shift in Game 4’s start time could have drastic effects on the remainder of the series.
The Cubs had seemingly all the momentum after winning Game 3 in thrilling fashion on Tuesday, momentum that now comes to a screeching halt, not all that dissimilar from the ceasing of the Cleveland Indians’ roll during last fall’s World Series. After Rajai Davis’ home run threw a wrench into Game 7, Jason Heyward’s clubhouse speech became a legendary moment in Cubs lore. This time, it’s the Cubs who have to sit and cool off while waiting for weather to pass.
The Nationals, meanwhile, get time to try and warm up their bats. Joe Maddon, like his counterpart in the opposite dugout, is sticking with his scheduled starter and will throw Jake Arrieta in Game 4 on Wednesday as he planned to do Tuesday. An argument could be made that the Cubs could have turned to their Game 1 starter after how magnificent Kyle Hendricks was in Washington. But the Cubs are equally confident in Arrieta to go out and get the job done as he battles back from his hamstring issue.
“Listen, Jake's really primed for this opportunity,” Maddon said before the rains came Tuesday. “He's done a great job of rehabbing his leg. He feels very good arm- and leg-wise right now. I'm real eager to watch him play.
“I just feel good about where Jake is right now physically and mentally, because he is. He's mentioned how great his arm feels, also, based on the rest, too. So you have the combination of resting his arm, resting his leg.”
But if the slowed momentum means the Cubs don’t win Game 4 on Wednesday, this series could dramatically swing, not just because Strasburg would await in Game 5 but because the Cubs could see another unfriendly pitcher on the mound in Max Scherzer. Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh in Monday’s Game 3, and he vowed to be available to pitch out of the bullpen in Game 5. So if the Cubs drop Game 4, then Game 5 becomes a tall task with the Nationals’ top two pitchers waiting.
So while rain worked in the Cubs’ favor last postseason, this time around, rain could make things a lot tougher.
The rain has come. And we only have to wait a day to find out what kind of effect it will have.