April weather in Chicago can be, as you know, iffy.
But on one April afternoon in Chicago a few years ago, a game was played under conditions that, well, they really shouldn’t have.
Game time weather conditions: 38 degrees, drizzle, wind blowing in at 24 miles per hour. It’s been colder at game time at Wrigley — but not much. Per baseball-reference’s Stathead, only five Wrigley games since 1990 have had a temp that low or lower and a wind speed as high or higher. All of them, you will not be surprised to learn, were in April:
They played because the next day’s forecast was as bad or worse, and with the Braves coming to Wrigley only once in 2018, they didn’t want to try to make up two games, as I noted in this article posted here in December 2018. Joe Maddon described the game this way:
Cubs manager Joe Maddon says that was the worst weather conditions he has ever been part of In a baseball game calling it ‘horrific.’ ‘We never should have played the game.” And this is from the winning manager after crazy 14-10 victory over #Braves— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) April 14, 2018
And that’s also from the guy who managed a game in a near-typhoon in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
Anyway, they played, the Cubs made a magnificent comeback and won, and it happened on this date in 2018.
Below, lightly edited, is my recap from that frigid afternoon at the ol’ ballyard. Incidentally, remember Efren Navarro? He played in exactly four games for the Cubs, and the plate appearance mentioned here (and shown in video!) was his final MLB plate appearance. He played a couple years in Japan and was still playing in the Mexican League last summer.
This all happened Saturday, April 14, 2018, five years ago today.
I have to be honest with all of you.
Around the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, with the Cubs down by eight and the weather conditions about as miserable as I’d ever seen at Wrigley Field, I thought about cashing things in and heading home.
But then, I figured: I’m there. I probably can’t get any colder than I already am. And as a matter of personal pride, I figured I’d stick it out.
Well, that turned out to be the right choice. The Cubs put together a wild and wacky nine-run rally in the eighth inning, on only three hits — the key one being a bases-clearing, game-tying double by Javier Báez — and defeated the Braves 14-10.
You’re going to get a full recap of this crazy game, but here’s a good four-sentence summary:
Nothing better than weird baseball at Wrigley Field.— Cubs No-Hit Streak (@CubsNoHitStreak) April 14, 2018
Cubs trailed by 8. Now it's not even a save situation.
And the wind chill is below freezing.
This one did not start out well. First, let’s talk about the weather. Mike Bojanowski and I agree that these were probably the most awful weather conditions the Cubs had ever started a game at Wrigley Field, with no delay, and with the intention of playing through whatever occurred, unless there had been a torrential downpour. There have been colder game-time temperatures, though 38 nears the top of the list. The wind was howling in at 24 miles per hour off Lake Michigan, with higher gusts. That created a wind chill of 29, and I know I reported earlier this week that there had been a wind chill of 1 on Opening Day 1997. Why the big difference? The formula for calculating wind chill was changed in 2000. Here’s an article explaining the difference showing both old and new charts.
Anyway, beyond the brutal temperatures, a light drizzle was relentless. It started early in the morning and never stopped, not once, all afternoon. At times it blew sideways. It’s a credit to the players that they were able to play as well as they did, most of the time, anyway.
Despite these conditions that wouldn’t even be considered good for NFL football (new Bears coach Matt Nagy threw out a first pitch and sang the seventh-inning stretch), about 15,000 or so of the announced 36,788 showed up.
That was just in time to see José Quintana serve up a leadoff homer to Ozzie Albies that landed a few rows in front of me. Quintana allowed two more baserunners in the inning but got out of it, despite having a couple of the outs hit hard off him. He was hitting only 90 or 91 on his fastball; perhaps trouble with the grip on a wet ball on this nasty day.
Albert Almora Jr. got the run back right away in the bottom of the first [VIDEO].
Almora’s first of the year tied the game. Both of those homers were laser beams — they had to be to get out of the park on a day like this.
Quintana gave up four more hits, including two doubles, in a three-run Braves second, and then completely fell apart in the third. After he allowed a single and two walks sandwiched around an out, Joe Maddon had mercy on Q and lifted him after 70 pitches, Q’s shortest and worst start as a Cub.
That start, and some other bad ones from Cubs starters, have led to numbers like this:
#Cubs now have 8 non-quality starts. Starters' ERA in those games is 9.59. ERA in the 6 quality starts is 1.25.— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) April 14, 2018
This rotation is too good for this to go on for very long. But after Eddie Butler entered and allowed three hits and a walk to the first five batters he faced, it was 9-1 Braves. A walk to Almora, a wild pitch, a fly out and an infield grounder by Willson Contreras made it 9-2. Big whoop, everyone thought, especially when the Braves got that run back in the fourth in an inning that included another Butler wild pitch and an error.
The way Cubs pitching was going at that point, it seemed like those wouldn’t be the last Braves runs.
But when Butler was lifted for pinch-hitter Kyle Schwarber in the sixth, the Cubs pecked away with one run, as Kyle walked with the bases loaded.
Around this time was when a number of my friends who are fellow bleacher season-ticket holders departed, and I was contemplating it. But again, I’m not getting any colder, and having been there as long as I had... why not stay? Because in baseball, anything can happen as long as you have outs left.
A walk by Kris Bryant, a triple by Ben Zobrist and a groundout by Baez made it 10-5 after seven.
Hm, I thought. This game is actually within reach. Justin Wilson entered to throw the eighth, and you know what happened in his last outing.
This one, though, was good. He allowed a one-out double, but the runner was stranded, and Wilson struck out a pair.
And that’s when the Cubs took control of this game, helped out by some very poor play by the Braves. By this time, it’s past 4:30 and maybe 1,000 people are left in the ballpark.
Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch. One out later, Tommy La Stella batted for Wilson and singled. That’s four pinch hits, incidentally, for TLS — in 11 at-bats, and in only 14 team games. The second HBP of the inning then happened, to Bryant, loading the bases.
Contreras hit a ball maybe 20 feet in front of the plate, slowed down by the wet grass, and beat it out, making it 10-6, with the bases still loaded.
Zobrist drew a four-pitch walk, plating another run, and that put the tying run on base, since it’s now 10-7.
Baez came to the plate. This time, I figured it was okay if he swung away and tried to yank one out of the park. Why not?
Chants of “Javy! Javy! Javy!” went up. And you know what, give him a lot of credit for working the count full, he laid off a couple of very close pitches, and then ... [VIDEO]
Man, that was a great piece of hitting, he went with the pitch exactly where it was thrown and split the defense. (And man, does he look cold or what?) Also, that ball was smoked:
Javier Baez double to tie the game was hit 111 MPH... #clutch— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 14, 2018
Tie game, as Len Kasper said on that clip, and the fun has not ended. Addison Russell was given a Manfred, and then Heyward drew a four-pitch walk. Schwarber batted for the second time in the inning and also walked, on a 3-2 pitch, to give the Cubs an 11-10 lead, and then it was La Stella’s time to bat again in the inning. Another four-pitch walk and now it’s 12-10.
Veteran Braves reliever Peter Moylan entered, and while Efren Navarro was batting... well, watching it will give you a better description [VIDEO].
A wild pitch and a throwing error gave the Cubs two more runs, and suddenly Brandon Morrow, who had been warming up for a potential save opportunity, was taken out of that.
In the inning: Nine runs, three hits, five walks, two hit batters, two wild pitches and an error, maybe the craziest Cubs inning in recent years.
Morrow walked Albies leading off the ninth and then put away the last three hitters, and we had one of the most exciting Cubs wins in recent years. It was the first time they had overcome an eight-run deficit to win since July 7, 2011 at Washington. The last time the Cubs had come from an eight-run deficit to win at Wrigley Field was May 30, 2008 against the Rockies, a game they trailed 9-1 and won 10-9.
Honestly, I can’t say enough about this Cubs team. Sure, both teams had to battle horrible weather conditions, but it would have been easy for them to cash this one in, write it off to the weather, and try again tomorrow. But as they love to say, they never quit, and that really is true. We’re only 14 games into the 2018 season and already the Cubs have two stirring late-inning comebacks (the other, last Saturday at Milwaukee, with that four-run ninth inning).
Celebrate this one. Heck, yeah, it was worth staying for all three hours and 43 minutes of this one.
It’s my understanding that Len Kasper mentioned on the TV broadcast that MLB asked the Cubs to do whatever they could to get this one in, given that the Braves don’t return to Wrigley and the lack of a lot of choices for makeup dates. I get that, but in general these conditions aren’t conducive to good baseball. “In general” being the operative words, because the Cubs certainly played some really good baseball in the late innings (after not-so-good early on). Having said all that, I’d think the Cubs could think about postponing Sunday’s game; as I have noted earlier, the teams do have a common off day May 14 when they could play it. It might even be a little warmer by then, but have a look at this:
Those dates, April 22-28, spill into the next Cubs homestand at the end of this month. Looks like it’s not going to be any warmer in the Midwest even as we get close to May. Games in Minneapolis, Cleveland and Detroit were all postponed Saturday afternoon (and the White Sox/Twins game for Sunday has already been called off). Obviously no one has any control over the weather, but this is unusually cold and wet for this time of year. The average high for April 14 in Chicago is 58 degrees. We barely got to within 20 degrees of that Saturday. Brrrrrr.