What just happened at Wrigley Field?
The Cubs and San Francisco Giants came to a standstill as Tuesday night turned into Wednesday morning, leaving both teams hanging around the dugouts for hours, waiting for answers that didn’t satisfy anyone.
The bleachers and upper deck were almost completely empty by the time the umpires determined the field would be unplayable and called the game at 1:16 a.m. That handed the Cubs a 2-0 five-inning victory that left the Giants seething with frustration.
“I’m beside myself,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said afterward. “In this day and age, it cannot happen. It shouldn’t happen.”
The Giants (65-59) are expected to protest after moving into a tie with the Atlanta Braves for the second wild card. But no one came up with an alternative solution during a delay that lasted four hours and 34 minutes.
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“We exhausted all efforts to get this game played,” home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt told a pool reporter, estimating his crew had made 20 to 30 communications with Major League Baseball. “There was nothing to put our hat on to suspend the game. There was really no way around it.”
The delay started around 8:42 p.m., with the Cubs leading in the middle of the fifth inning after Anthony Rizzo’s two-run homer onto Sheffield Avenue and Tsuyoshi Wada’s shutdown performance.
It poured for roughly 15 minutes in a short, powerful burst and then the rain completely stopped. But the grounds crew had struggled to get the tarp all the way across the diamond.
The heavy rains weighed down the tarp as the crowd yelled “Pull! Pull! Pull!” Those reactions eventually turned to boos and then chants of “USA! USA! USA!”
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“I don’t think anyone’s at fault. It was a flash storm,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said, pointing out the White Sox stayed dry on the South Side during their 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Wendelstedt described a “light mist” in the top of the fifth inning and got a report saying it would last only five or 10 minutes. According to the radar, he said, “Mother Nature was not raining. No one had any facts that saw this coming.”
“It showed up on the radar really late,” Hoyer said. “The volume of the storm was much harder than anyone expected, so the tarp probably started getting on the field later than it usually does, and those guys were working with such alacrity to get the tarp out there that it became difficult to pull because it was so heavy. It probably got a little off-kilter.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who stayed in contact with MLB, gave this explanation:
“The way the rule is written, had that been an automatic tarp that malfunctioned, that would have been grounds for a suspended game. But the fact it was a manual tarp – we had issues covering the field – the rules don’t provide for a suspended game.
“Honestly, we tried every way possible for the sake of fairness and equity to get to the point of a suspended game and allow the teams to play nine tomorrow, but the rules don’t provide for that.”
Bag after bag, the grounds crew poured a drying agent all over the dirt. Over and over, they dragged and raked the infield, using a blower on the edge of the outfield grass. They didn’t need to repaint the lines or put the bases back in place.
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By 10:15 p.m., a member of the TV production crew had fallen in the camera well next to the home dugout, needing the attention of the athletic trainers and paramedics and getting carted off in a stretcher to an ambulance waiting at the right-field gate underneath the LED board.
As the cart circled back around the warning track, Bochy and Cubs manager Rick Renteria surveyed the infield along with the umpiring crew. They would do the same nature walk again about an hour later. More coaches would test the field.
“There was a lot of moisture in there,” Renteria said. “The one thing everybody has to be cognizant of is that you don’t want any of those guys to get hurt. Period.
“The footing on that was going to be pretty bad. We did everything we could.
The Cubs (55-70) say the field needs sunlight, wind and time. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 Wednesday night.
“It doesn’t seem like a real game in a pennant race,” Hoyer said. “There were issues with the tarp coming out, and how that went, which contributed to it, and that’s the organization’s responsibility. So we tried to wait as long as we possibly could, because the Giants are in the pennant race, and because we felt an obligation to do that.”