At 11:00 this morning I would not have given much more than a one percent chance that the Cubs and Rangers would get their Thursday afternoon game in. Radars were lit up in bright greens, oranges, yellows and reds; floods had closed several expressways and filled people's basements with water (fortunately, I didn't get any of that in my house), and in general, it was a windy, miserable day, not well-suited at all for baseball.
But the rain let up about 12:30, and I decided I'd give it a shot and head over to Wrigley. There weren't many people there at all -- maybe 3,000 in all -- and even though the rain started up again just about game time, they decided to play baseball through it, likely because of the logistical nightmare of trying to make up two postponed interleague games.
Let's all be happy they did that, because it took the worst weather day of a really bad weather homestand for the Cubs to play their best all-around game of the season, a 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers, and in the fastest time of any of the eight home games to date, two hours, 37 minutes.
There's really nothing but positive things to say about this game, so let's get right to them: Carlos Villanueva had his third consecutive outstanding start of this season, and he's looking like TheoJed's best free-agent signing of the offseason. He mixed speeds well and had batters swinging and pounding the ball into the ground, for the most part. He threw just 87 pitches in seven innings, and made just two mistakes, hit for solo home runs by Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz for the Rangers' only runs.
Okay, I have one complaint. Hey Dale -- you don't have to use your bullpen every single day! At 87 pitches, why not let Villanueva start the eighth inning, at least, instead of using the one pitcher you're probably going to have to use to close games, James Russell, throw in a non-save situation in the eighth inning? Russell threw an easy 1-2-3 inning, with just 13 pitches, so he should be available Friday night in Milwaukee, and Carlos Marmol, amazingly enough, also looked good, getting two of his three outs on called strikes, and the other on a meek little comebacker from Kinsler.
But seriously, Dale, sometimes you can let your starting pitcher complete a game.
The Cubs' offense clicked early and often, led by a two-homer barrage from Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano in the third, chasing Rangers starter Alexi Ogando. Rizzo's blast bounced off the bottom of the center-field bleachers on the right side, probably a 430-foot homer, the longest at Wrigley so far this year; Soriano's was his first of the season, and it's good to see him hit one before May 1. David DeJesus doubled and tripled; Starlin Castro drew his first two walks of the year, and Welington Castillo went 4-for-4.
Props, too, to Luis Valbuena, who also had two hits. Valbuena made some really nice defensive plays, especially so with the ball and field being so wet; if he could hit even .250, he'd be a useful player with the walks he draws.
Around the time the Rangers changed pitchers, bringing in Derek Lowe, it got so windy that it was nearly impossible to hold my umbrella upright. Not being able to see the game, Mike and I decided to head over to the other side of the park and watch the game in sheltered seats. With so few people there, even a security supervisor I know said, "Sit anywhere you want!"
We wound up in section 209. It's interesting to see the game from that different perspective. For one thing, we could no longer see the little boards in the upper deck that show pitch speed, so we couldn't keep track of that. We sat low enough that we could see most, but not all, of the scoreboard; from about the last six rows you can't see it at all -- and more importantly, perhaps, for the Cubs with their latest proposal, from the last few rows of the lower deck people aren't going to be able to see any Jumbotron in left field, no matter how large it is.
Food for thought, I'd think. I hadn't watched an entire game (or most of one) from that side of Wrigley Field since I was invited to a bachelor party in a suite in April 2004. In fact, this was that game, exactly nine years ago today. Go look. Just to prove that the weather this time of year isn't always this awful, check out the weather conditions for that one.
Eventually, it'll warm up and stop raining. Right? I looked this up, because I was curious, when there seemed a chance that this game might be rained out -- the last time the Cubs postponed two consecutive home games was April 20 and 22, 1977, when the last game of a series against the Phillies and the first game of a series with the Reds were both called off. There was an off day, obviously, in between; the last time the Cubs had rainouts on consecutive days at home was September 28 and 29, 1973, when two games of a series with the Mets were postponed. Doubleheaders were scheduled on September 30 and October 1, but when the Mets won the first game of the October 1 doubleheader and clinched the NL East title, the second game was cancelled. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball, the Cubs and the Rangers are likely breathing a huge sigh of relief because they have to reschedule just one game, rather than two. I'd think the most likely date is Monday, May 6, a date on which they can make up Wednesday night's rainout as a night game.
We hope that when the Cubs return home from their upcoming 10-game road trip, the weather will be more conducive to baseball. I can't remember any homestand of this length when the weather was this awful -- just one day, Opening Day, was nice, and one other (last Sunday) had any sunshine. The rest of them were either cold, windy, rainy or all three. This weekend, in Milwaukee, the Cubs will at least be able to play without having to worry about any of that. And maybe this win, well played by both the pitching staff and the hitters, can lead to a few more just like it.
Final note: editable comments should be live here at BCB; read the link for more details.