About 52 hours elapsed from the time of the first pitch Monday night to the recording of the final out Wednesday. The Cubs and Brewers played four games in those 52 hours; the sum total of the game times was 12 hours, 56 minutes and, tacking on Wednesday night's rain delay, 14 hours, two minutes but at times, it seemed as if the teams were playing for just about all of those 52 hours. Even when they managed to get the game time under three hours (2:46 Wednesday; just 21 of the Cubs' 107 games this year have been that length or less, and it would have been shorter if Blake Parker hadn't muddled through a 21-pitch ninth inning), the one-hour, six-minute rain delay caused the elapsed time from start to finish to be nearly four hours.
Fortunately, Wednesday night's lengthy stay at the ballpark for the Cubs resulted in a 6-1 win over the Brewers, and there was much goodness to be found, so let's get to it.
Edwin Jackson had the best start of his Cubs career; I wouldn't say he "tired" after the rain delay (although he flung his first pitch after the delay to the backstop), because he dispatched of the rest of the sixth inning and all of the seventh without incident. But in the eighth, a single and a double scored the Brewers' only run. If not for that, Jackson might have been allowed to go for a complete-game shutout. He has just three of those in his career. Even better than that: Wednesday night's win was just the third start of Jackson's career (out of 225 games started) where he's thrown at least eight innings and not walked anyone.
That, I think you'll agree, we'd love to see more of. In his last six starts, Jackson has posted a 1.56 ERA and 0.942 WHIP, issuing just seven walks in 40⅓ innings. Now, after a really rough start, he's looked like the guy Theo & Jed signed to that four-year, $52 million deal. Starting pitching has been a Cubs strength this year, and at last, Jackson has joined the rest of the rotation in that strength.
Something that hasn't been a strength has been the team offense, particularly Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, both of whom have had disappointing seasons. Both homered Wednesday night; Rizzo's was announced at 382 feet but must have been at least 50 feet longer, considering it disappeared over the fence past the 400-foot sign and about 10 rows into the right-center field bleachers near the batter's eye. Rizzo also doubled and is on a 7-for-17 run in his last five games (with four walks, too). Hopefully, this will lead to a good August for him.
Those of us with smartphones had been watching a compact, but intense line of thunderstorms bear down on the north side of Chicago for at least 45 minutes before it hit with two out in the top of the sixth; there wasn't the usual warning of a light rain before the harder rain. Heavy rain began to fall and the grounds crew had to scramble to get the tarp on the infield. It rained hard for about 20 minutes, less so for another 20 and they had the field ready to go nearly as quickly as the rain started; the Cubs completed the scoring on a two-run double by David DeJesus in the bottom of the sixth. By that time, probably two-thirds of the far-below-capacity crowd had left, and maybe 3,000 stayed to see the Cubs win, shortly after 11 p.m.
The announced number of tickets sold was 29,817. That's the smallest number of tickets sold announced for a July home game since 29,618 on July 22, 2002, more than 11 years ago.
The good things coming out of Wednesday's win, we hope, will begin to lead to better baseball in 2014 and beyond, so that crowds like that won't become the norm.
The Cubs open a four-game series with the Dodgers Thursday night. The Dodgers are the hottest team in the National League; they've gone 26-7 since June 22. But you know what? The Cubs have played decent baseball since that date, ranking fourth in the NL with a 19-15 mark. Perhaps they can still make something decent out of this homestand.