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Cubs, Pirates Play Late, Late, Late Into The Night, End With Cubs Loss

David Banks - Getty Images

Before I tell you about Monday night/Tuesday morning's 3-0 Pirates win over the Cubs, here's a little story about a classical music piece that should explain very well what it felt like to be there. (And yes. Of course I stayed till the last pitch at 1:28 a.m.) From the 1974 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records:

The longest piano piece of any kind is Vexations by Erik Satie which consists of a 180-note composition which, on the composer's orders, must be repeated 840 times so that the whole performance lasts 18 hours 40 minutes. Its first reported public performance in September, 1963, in the Pocket Theatre, New York City, required a relay of ten pianists. The New York Times critic fell asleep at 4 a.m. and the audience dwindled to six masochists. At the conclusion a sado-masochist shouted "Encore."

That's about what it was like for the 200 or so of us who stuck around till the end. We were "rewarded" with the latest start (10:42 p.m.) and latest end (1:28 a.m.) to a game in the history of Wrigley Field (the previous marks were both set in this 2005 game, the game in which Greg Maddux recorded his 3,000th strikeout). At least the teams didn't play a four-hour, four-minute game as they did on Sunday; in fact, the game time of 2:46 was the first time since September 8 that the Cubs managed to finish a game in less than three hours. (And eight of the nine games before that went longer than three hours. You'd think the players were getting paid by the hour.)

The rain delay was almost an hour longer than the game. It was evident from the time it started raining, about 6:15 p.m., that the rain would last until at least 9:00, and possibly later. Would MLB -- since they were in charge of whether to postpone this game or not -- actually let a game start after 10 p.m. in Chicago?

Obviously, they did. There were two factors at work: one, MLB no longer wants cancelled games (games postponed and not made up); they want every team to play its entire 162-game schedule. And two, this game did have meaning to the Pirates; by winning, they moved back into a tie with the Brewers for third place in the NL Central and third place in the NL wild-card race, 2½ games behind the Cardinals, who had the night off and were probably laughing at this ridiculous affair. Or, come to think of it, the Cardinals were probably safely asleep at home, resting up for their series that begins tonight against the Astros in St. Louis.

Since it had meaning for the Pirates and the teams have no further common off days, they decided to wait. About 5,000 people were in the park at any one time during the wait; there was a constant stream of people giving up and leaving during the delay. Perhaps 2,000 or so were in the seats at first pitch, with just 200 of us die-hards left at game's end. It was worth it, apart from the lack of sleep, just to see what would happen if they played a game literally in the middle of the night. The one thing we were all afraid of was extra innings.

Pirates pitchers Kevin Correia, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan took care of that. They allowed just two hits -- both singles by Darwin Barney. (Thus, the Cubs' no-no-hit streak continues, now at 7,486 games.)

Meanwhile, Travis Wood matched him reasonably well, except for a bad third inning. Wood hit Brock Holt; a single and a strikeout followed, but then Starling Marte ripped a triple into the left-field corner, scoring both runs. Marte then scored on a Jose Tabata double to the wall in center field.

They could have called things after that and simply awarded the win to the Pirates, since not much happened past the third inning. From then on, the teams combined for three singles, a walk and a hit batsman. After Barney's second single leading off the sixth inning, Pirates pitchers retired 11 straight Cubs until David DeJesus prolonged the agony by drawing a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth. That again briefly raised the terrifying thought of playing beyond nine innings; Luis Valbuena accomodated everyone in the house by striking out to end the game.

Due to the local ordinance regulating night games, there was no music played once the game started (except for organ accompaniment of Len & Bob singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch). PA announcements continued, but in between, there was mostly silence, punctuated by loud yells that you could hear from individual fans, one chant of "Let's Go Home!", and the sound of the eyelits of the center-field scoreboard popping in and out, counting balls and strikes. Normally you can't hear that over the noise of the crowd unless you're up close to the board, but Monday night it could be heard all over the bleachers.

I'm writing this just before 8 a.m. Chicago time on Tuesday. This is probably not more than a couple of hours after the Pirates wearily trudged into their own beds in Pittsburgh, to await a game tonight at PNC Park against the Brewers. That series now looms as vitally important for both clubs; the winner of the series likely trudges on in the NL second-wild-card race while the loser gets ready for 2013.

As noted above, the game ended at 1:28 a.m. Less than 18 hours later, the Cubs will take the field again -- against the Reds, a team that likely spent a restful off day in Chicago Monday. At least there's no rain in the forecast.