When Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon (wait, they've got a Rondon too?) got Kris Bryant to swing and miss at strike three just after 1 a.m. Wednesday, it ended nearly six hours of baseball, rain, more baseball, a little more rain, and a 10-8 Cubs loss to the Tigers which can be summed up in these few words to Cubs pitchers:
Keep the ball in the ballpark, please!
It wasn't all Jason Hammel's fault. The evening began warm and humid with the wind blowing a gale toward left field, with everyone in the ballpark understanding that storms would likely interrupt the proceedings at some point. The first homer Hammel allowed, to Ian Kinsler, just barely landed in the basket in left-center above Kyle Schwarber's head, definitely wind-aided. The next hitter, Miguel Cabrera, hit a ball that somehow was snagged over the basket by a fan, also a ball that had help from the wind and the thick, soupy air. That was, after review, termed a ground-rule double and the fan was escorted out of the premises.
Two pitches later, that call was rendered moot by J.D. Martinez, who crushed a baseball that landed on top of the batter's eye suite in dead center field. Four hitters and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead.
The wind was still blowing out in the bottom of the first when Dexter Fowler singled, Schwarber walked and Chris Coghlan homered to left, his 14th. Unfortunately, that scored only two runs because Fowler tried to take second base on a missed pickoff throw that didn't get far enough away from Cabrera, who threw him out.
If you didn't know the wind was blowing out after that inning -- which took nearly 35 minutes to play -- you surely got the clue after the second, when Anthony Gose gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead with a two-run homer.
Gose is a skinny center fielder better known for his baserunning abilities. Prior to Tuesday night he had hit seven career homers in 889 at-bats.
The rain came, and very quickly, during Schwarber's at-bat in the bottom of the third. With lightning in the area and a tornado warning issued for some of the near western suburbs, Cubs officials cleared the open areas of the stands, including the bleachers. Later a severe thunderstorm warning was given to the areas close to the ballpark. It rained hard for nearly an hour, then less so for about 30 minutes after that. When the rain finally stopped around 9:40, it took the grounds crew quite some time to get this much water cleared off the field:
That's all the water that was on top of the tarp. It's dumped in that area intentionally -- that's where the drains are in the new drainage system installed at Wrigley Field seven years ago. It does a remarkably good job of getting even that much water off the field and making it playable in a very short time.
When the game resumed at 10:30, maybe 10-12,000 of the full house of 39,684 remained, and most of them seemed to be Tigers fans who had made the trip over from Michigan. Chants of "Let's go Tigers!" were loud. Very loud. For the visitors, it must have sounded like a home game. They added a run off Jason Motte in the fourth, and it did not look good for the Cubs.
That is, until they got hold of Detroit reliever Buck Farmer (come on, that's not a real name!) in the fifth. Miguel Montero led off with a single, but pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia hit into a double play. Three batters later it was 6-5, after a double by Addison Russell, a walk to Fowler and a three-run homer halfway up the right-field bleachers by Schwarber. While the wind was still blowing out at this point, that ball needed no help.
Oh, and whether you were intentionally mispronouncing Farmer's first and last names or not (and come on, yes you were), here's an interesting statistical note about him:
Buck Farmer is the first #Tigers player to enter a game as a relief pitcher and have a base hit since Chuck Seelbach on August 20, 1972.— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) August 19, 2015
The Cubs tied the game in the seventh when Fowler led off with a double and two strikeouts later, Anthony Rizzo dumped a single into short center field. Fowler beat Gose's somewhat-wild throw home and it was 6-6.
This speaks to the resilience of this year's Cubs. Or a bad Tigers bullpen. Still, the Cubs had a chance at a win when things looked bleak. By this time it had started to rain again, not nearly as hard as earlier, but the 20-minute or so storm claimed my umbrella as a casualty; a brief hard wind gust snapped the ribs and made it unsalvageable.
Pedro Strop, who's been quite reliable lately (13 straight scoreless appearances before Tuesday night), wasn't. The Tigers either had him scouted right or figured they could get away with this with the grass still being somewhat wet, and Gose and Kinsler (who wound up 5-for-5) both bunted their way on. Then it appeared Strop lost his release point and got wild with Miguel Cabrera, who he walked to load the bases. A run scored on a sacrifice fly, and then pinch-hitter Victor Martinez was intentionally walked -- with first base occupied.
You don't see that too often, but I suppose Joe Maddon figured that Nick Castellanos, who was 0-for-3, would be an easier out than Martinez.
Unfortunately, Castellanos blooped a single into short center, scoring two runs. The Tigers added a run in the ninth off James Russell, who had pitched just once in the last seven days, briefly on Sunday.
With the clock headed toward 1 a.m. in Chicago and perhaps 5,000 remaining in the Wrigley Field seats, the Cubs had one last chance against the Tigers' Rondon, who immediately walked Fowler. Schwarber forced him, took second on defensive indifference, third on a passed ball and scored on an infield out by Rizzo. Chris Coghlan, in the meantime, had also been walked by Rondon, took second on defensive indifference (not sure why the Tigers weren't holding runners in a somewhat-close game), third on Rizzo's groundout and then was waved home one pitch into Bryant's at-bat when the umpires conferred and ruled (apparently) that Tigers catcher James McCann had committed catcher interference.
As if this game didn't have pretty much everything already. But you knew the ending in the first paragraph of this recap; Bryant, with the tying run on deck, struck out. Three hours, 36 minutes of baseball (321 pitches were thrown by the 14 pitchers who took the mound) and two hours, 17 minutes of rain delay made for quite the long evening for everyone, ending with a bad result for the Cubs.
The Cubs showed the Pirates/Diamondbacks game on the video boards during the delay; that one took nearly as long as the Cubs game with no rain interruption (five hours, 11 minutes) before the Pirates won in 15 innings. The Giants defeated the Cardinals, so the Cubs lost ground to both of them, now trailing Pittsburgh by three games for wild-card spot No. 1 but still leading San Francisco for wild-card spot No. 2 by the same margin.
As I noted earlier, the three homers allowed by Hammel weren't all his fault; two of them had wind help, and Hammel did strike out six in his three innings of work before the delay. To me, though, he still appears to have some lingering aftereffects of the leg injury he suffered six weeks ago against the Cardinals. That will have to be watched carefully.
And once the Cubs come back to tie a game like this, it would be nice if the late-inning relief would hold it.
Rain is supposed to be out of the forecast by the time the teams take the field Wednesday evening to wrap this two-game set. Jon Lester, who was rehearsing throws to first base before Tuesday's game, will face Daniel Norris. One more rotation note: the Cubs are expected to swap Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks in the rotation, with Arrieta now going Thursday and Hendricks Friday against the Braves. This will allow Arrieta to face both the Giants and Dodgers on the upcoming road trip.
Finally, this note on Wednesday's game:
The Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs will conclude their two-game interleague series Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a commemoration of the 1945 World Series and the end of World War II. The Tigers and Cubs will wear throwback jerseys replicating the 1945 uniforms.
Since we were discussing various old Cubs uniforms the other day, I simply wanted to note that the Cubs are undefeated (4-0) wearing throwbacks this year. Let's hope that mark continues.