Cubs

Cubs fall short in sloppy, rain-soaked game at Wrigley

Cubs fall short in sloppy, rain-soaked game at Wrigley

At one point, there were almost more seagulls (and ducks!) on the field than fans in the stands while the game was still being played.

That's how awful the weather got at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon, where the Cubs dropped an ugly, rain-soaked game 6-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs walked 10 batters, committed three errors (leading to two unearned runs), had only six hits and struck out 10 times in a game that took more than five-and-a-half hours to complete (including a two-hour rain delay).

Every ball in the air became an adventure for both teams.

"That was a very awkward day to play baseball," said Joe Maddon, who compared Friday's elements to some of the worst weather he's ever played/managed through.

The announced crowd of 36,923 never quite materialized thanks to a first-pitch temperature that felt like 37 degrees thanks to 17 mph winds. Throw in the constant smattering of rain and the conditions were downright miserable to watch a game in.

But with a ton of rain forecasted for Saturday, the Cubs and Brewers didn't want to take the chance they'd have to make up two games later in the season.

Things were tough for the Cubs from the outset as Eddie Butler walked the first two batters of the game, both of whom came around to score on a two-out single up the middle by Milwaukee catcher Jett Bandy.

Butler — coming off an impressive debut (six shutout innings) in St. Louis over the weekend — only allowed those two runs, but also recorded just nine outs, needing 92 pitches to do so. The 26-year-old walked five batters and allowed three hits, striking out three.

He admitted he couldn't get a good feel on the baseball due to the conditions, but also didn't use that as an excuse.

"Both teams were playing in it," Butler said. "I needed to find a way to get it done and I didn't do that today."

The Cubs battled back in the third when Keon Broxton dropped Javy Baez's fly ball in center field, allowing the Cubs shortstop to motor into second base. Two batters later, Jon Jay singled Baez home.

Willson Contreras added a two-run single in the fourth and the Cubs held the lead as the rains started to pick up.

But Mike Montgomery struggled with his command in the top of the fifth, allowing two runs to score, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead.

The conditions only continued to worsen and the game was finally delayed after Kyle Schwarber had to range all the way into the infield dirt for a fly ball that clanked off his glove. He compounded the initial error by trying to get a force at second base, but his diving throw wound up in right field instead, leading to two errors on the same play.

As the Brewers runners settled into second and third to start out the sixth inning, the game was finally suspended and the tarp stretched out over the infield.

"That ball should never happen," Maddon said. "That's why they pulled the tarp. ... When a play like that occurs, that also points in the direction that probably the conditions weren't baseball-esque. Please don't blame Schwarber. That's very unjust. The wind and where that ball blew back to, he made a great attempt on it, actually. That's normally the shortstop's ball, but under the circumstances, it was up for grabs, basically."

But after the ball smacked off his glove, should Schwarber have tried to flip it to second?

"He doesn't practice a backhand flip from 40 feet away on a daily basis," Maddon deadpanned. "He was just trying to make a play. If he had made it, it would've been outstanding. But I'm not gonna criticize that." 

When play resumed one hour and 59 minutes later, Domingo Santana greeted Cubs rookie Pierce Johnson — making his MLB debut — with another two-run single to close out the scoring in the afternoon/evening.

Johnson said he couldn't really tell how bad the conditions truly were since he was tucked away in the Cubs bullpen under the left-field bleachers. But when he walked through the doors onto the playing field, he was hit with the wind and rain and said his glasses/goggles actually fogged up initially.

Still, he was happy-go-lucky about the opportunity to make his big-league debut, even if the weather was dreadful.

"That's not how I drew it up," Johnson said. "What an amazing experience. That was so much fun to be out there and finally get out the for the first time and really kinda calm those nerves a bit. Had an absolute blast and got the first one out of the way."

Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Millions of Americans have lost jobs or taken pay cuts because of the economic impact of a coronavirus pandemic that in this country shows no signs of going away anytime soon, including countless members of the sports media.

So despite some of the more laughably ignorant opinions from the dimmer corners of social media, exactly nobody in the media wants any sport to shut down again.

That said, what the hell are we doing playing games outside of a bubble during the deadliest pandemic in this country in more than 100 years?

With Friday's news that another Cardinals staff member and two more players tested positive in the past two days for COVID-19, the Cubs-Cards weekend series was postponed as officials scrambled to test and retest Cardinals personnel and try to get their season restarted.

The Cubs, who have not had a player test positive since the intake process began in June, have done everything right, from management to the last player on the roster, to keep their team healthy and playing.

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But the operative, most overlooked, word in all of this has always been “playing.”

And the longer MLB pushes through outbreaks, and measures the season’s viability in counting cases instead of the risk of a catastrophic outcome for even one player, the deeper its ethical dilemma in this viral cesspool.

“Ethically, I have no problem saying we’re going to keep doing this,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said over the weekend about asking players to continue working as the league experienced outbreaks involving the Marlins and Cardinals.

“That said, we have to do it the right way,” Hoyer said, citing the extra lengths the Cubs have taken to keep players and staff safe.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

But even he and other team executives understand the limits of all the best-made plans.

“The infection is throughout the country. That’s the reality,” team president Theo Epstein said. “If you’re traveling around, there’s a real risk. Protocols are not perfect. No set of protocols are perfect. They’re designed to minimize the risk as best you possibly can.”

And while the odds for surviving the virus favor young, athletic people such as baseball players, the nearly 160,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 in the last five months include otherwise healthy toddlers, teens and young adults.

Add that to the best-known characteristic of this virus — its wildfire-like ability to spread within a group — and baseball’s attempt to stage a two-month season involving travel in and out of 30 locales starts to look like Russian roulette.

Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez, 27, contracted COVID-19 last month and as a result developed myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart — that might shut him down for the season even after multiple tests say he’s clear of the virus.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, a fit, 39-year-old, recent major-league athlete, had a monthlong case so severe he went to the emergency room at one point for treatment before the viral pneumonia and high fever began to improve.

The vast majority of players insist they want to play, including Rodríguez, even after his heart diagnosis. More than 20 others have opted out because of the risk, including All-Stars Buster Posey, David Price and — in the past week — Lorenzo Cain and Yoenis Céspedes.

Obviously the owners want to play, with more than $1 billion in recouped revenues at stake in a season of deep financial losses.

“Everyone that I know outside of baseball who’s become positive, who’s gotten COVID-19 at some point, did everything right — washed their hands, wore masks, socially distanced — and they still became positive,” Epstein said. “They don’t know where. It could have been the grocery store. It could have been walking down the street.

“And as far as I know that’s the case inside baseball, too,” he added. “This is everywhere in the country and unfortunately going the wrong direction nationwide. It’s a fraught environment out there that we’re operating in, and we’re going to need to do our absolute best and also be fortunate.”

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Cubs-Cardinals series postponed after Cardinals' COVID-19 outbreak worsens

Cubs-Cardinals series postponed after Cardinals' COVID-19 outbreak worsens

The COVID-19 pandemic finally caught up to the Cubs, who had their weekend series against the Cardinals postponed Friday after the Cardinals' coronavirus outbreak worsened by three positive tests before the teams were scheduled to open a three-game series in St. Louis on Friday night.

The Cardinals, who haven't played since last week because of an outbreak that now includes at least 16 players and staff, scrambled to test and retest personnel Friday as Major League Baseball wiped another series off their schedule.

Cardinals president John Mozeliak said Friday the latest players to test positive are outfielder Austin Dean and pitcher Ryan Helsley. The club announced Tuesday catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong recently tested positive.

The Cubs, who have not had a player test positive since intake testing began more than a month ago, had not lost a game on their schedule because of coronavirus issues.

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The Cubs (10-3) were scheduled to fly home from St. Louis Friday night and are not scheduled to play again until Tuesday in Cleveland. This weekend's series has not been rescheduled yet.

“Based on the information MLB has shared with us, postponing this series is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of the Cardinals and the Cubs,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a statement. “Therefore, it is absolutely the right thing to do.

“While it’s obviously less than ideal, this is 2020, and we will embrace whatever steps are necessary to promote player and staff wellbeing and increase our chances of completing this season in safe fashion,” he added. “We will be ready to go on Tuesday in Cleveland. In the meantime, we wish the Cardinals personnel involved a quick and complete recovery.”

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