Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs scores on a sacrifice fly hit by teammate Joe Mather as catcher Wilin Rosario of the Colorado Rockies drops the ball at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
In hindsight, it should have been so easy to figure out.
Chris Volstad grew up in south Florida. He played his entire major-league career there, and a significant portion of his minor-league career in Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana -- near-tropical territory.
So it makes sense. He just needed rain to win!
On a day when the start of the game was delayed by rain for over two hours, and the entire game was played in at first a light, then moderate, then heavy rain, Volstad posted his first win as a Cub, throwing 6⅔ shutout innings against the Rockies. The Cubs won the game 5-0 after a crazy eighth inning in which they scored runs thanks to misplayed balls, overthrows and wild pitches before the umpires finally had mercy on the players, fans and themselves and held up play just after 6:15 p.m. Thirty minutes later, it was over, called because it was raining even harder.
Volstad's last win was 413 days ago, July 10, 2011 in Miami against the Astros. And good news for Volstad -- the Cubs have two more series against the Astros remaining this year, so he might have a chance to face them twice more.
It wasn't much of a day for hitters, given the weather conditions; Volstad threw very well before having to be lifted in the seventh after a two-out walk. I'm sure Dale Sveum would have liked to see him finish that inning, but at 101 pitches and with the rain falling ever harder, he called on Manuel Corpas, who finished off the inning with a ground ball.
The Cubs had fashioned a 2-0 lead thanks primarily to Darwin Barney, who drove in both the runs, one on a groundout after a Starlin Castro double and Steve Clevenger fly ball; the other, on a pop-fly single into center field with Castro on third following a walk and a pair of groundouts.
Not a very exciting offense, but it was enough for the day and the conditions. Apart from that, Anthony Rizzo had a pair of hits and two walks, the second one intentional. That's the first IBB of Rizzo's Cubs career (he had one last year), perhaps a sign that he's starting to be respected around the league. It's also good to see him get a couple of hits, after his very slow month of August. A strong finish for him would be a great sign for 2013.
The bottom of the eighth inning was a joke, really. It was raining very hard; no one could get a good grip on the ball, and in the previous half-inning Brett Jackson had made a nice sliding catch -- but on the wet grass, I worried about him getting hurt. That's the real issue with playing in conditions like these -- players suffering unnecessary injuries. It's not as if this game meant anything; once it was official with the Cubs leading after 4½ innings, it really could have been stopped just about any time, as it was raining steadily through all the remaining innings. I understand MLB wanting every team to play its full 162-game schedule and I understand the Cubs not wanting to lose the revenue from this date.
But seriously. Once it's official, if the conditions are still bad, stop the game.
During the rain delay, I was introduced to some family and friends of Steve Clevenger who had come in to see him play -- his dad, his fiancee and his best friend. Too bad Clevenger didn't do anything offensively today, but the team did win and his pitcher threw well.
Fortunately for the Cubs, the weather forecast for the rest of the week looks great -- pleasant temperatures and no rain. I'm thinking they, and those of us who stuck it out until the end of the eighth inning (I did leave when that delay was called), deserve that.