Cubs

Looking back on the Cubs' rain-filled weekend in Washington D.C.

Looking back on the Cubs' rain-filled weekend in Washington D.C.

Well, the Cubs have surely experienced better weekends of baseball.

The weekend seemed to be starting on a positive note for the Cubs following back-to-back 6-4 wins over the Brewers (Wednesday) and Nationals (Thursday). Thursday's win increased the Cubs' lead in the NL Central to 4.5 games over the idle Brewers.

Things mostly went downhill from there.

Friday night's game, which was scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m. CT. was delayed for more than an hour before finally getting underway. The game went into a delay again with two outs in the top of the second inning, an interruption that lasted two hours and 59 minutes before the game was postponed anyway.

Manager Joe Maddon expressed his confusion over how the delays were handled.

"It was just unfortunate because we made it clear in the beginning that we wanted to wait and play and we were willing to wait and play and then about 10 o'clock, it didn't look good," Maddon said. "Then all of a sudden, it started to look better and we had no issues with starting at 11:30."

Friday's postponed game was rescheduled for Saturday, forming a doubleheader with Saturday's game (originally scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT). Game 1 Saturday was to start at 2:05 p.m. CT, with Game 2 to begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Game 1 was delayed two hours and 10 minutes, though it ultimately wasn't worth the wait. The Nationals scored three runs in the first inning off of Jaime García, who Maddon hoped could pitch two innings. The Nationals went on to win 10-3 in a game played through on-and-off rain.

As if all the rain delays were not enough, the Nationals created a delay themselves Saturday. Game 2 of the doubleheader was supposed to start at 7:45 p.m. CT, though it started 15 minutes late because a pregame ceremony to honor former-outfielder Jayson Werth ran long.

Game 2 started well for the Cubs, as Victor Caratini hit an early grand slam that featured a monster bat flip. The Cubs led 5-3 late before the Nationals took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning following a Bryce Harper home run.

Naturally, the rain returned shortly after, resulting in a delay that lasted more than an hour. The long wait ultimately resulted in a 6-5 Cubs loss, though the game was played in its entirety, at least.

In all, the Cubs and Nationals spent more time delayed this weekend than they did actually playing three of the four scheduled games.

Sunday's 12:05 p.m. CT game started and ended in a rain delay, getting postponed until Thursday at 3:05 p.m. CT. So following a three-game series at home against the Brewers (who now are just two games back for first place in the NL Central) the Cubs will fly back to Washington D.C. for one day.

Waiting for them will likely be Max Scherzer, who will be on normal rest after pitching a complete game in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader.

Whether or not the game gets played is in question, as Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall on Thursday, possibly delaying the game or even causing another postponement.

Thursday was going to be the Cubs' first day off since Aug. 20, ending a 23 games in 23 days stretch. Instead, the stretch will extend to 30 games in 30 days, as the next Cubs' off-day is not scheduled until Sept. 20.

Weather permitting, of course.

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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