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Tarp troubles lead to delay, shortened game

Game called early in fifth inning after grounds crew's difficulties at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO -- The Cubs and Giants endured a most imperfect storm Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Their series opener was called after a four-hour, 34-minute delay in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with the Cubs getting a 2-0 win after four and a half innings of play.

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The grounds crew strained in spreading the infield tarp and did so during the roughly 15-minute windy downpour. The result turned Wrigley Field into a swampy habitat that left playing conditions dangerous, and both teams discontent.

"I don't think anyone takes any particular pride in winning a 2-0 game in five innings in a situation like that," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Those are the rules, but as an organization, we made a very good-faith effort to try to play this game."

Had the Giants led at the time of delay, the contest would have been postponed by virtue of MLB Rule 4.10, which states the game is complete if the home team is ahead through five trips to the plate by the visitors -- the case Tuesday.

The game couldn't be suspended through Rule 4.12(a)(3) for a field malfunction either, as the tarp was hauled manually.

Thus, the imperfect storm.

"The problem that all the parties faced was in the baseball rulebook there was nothing to put our hat on to suspend the game," crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt said. "The game became regulation with the home team winning in the top of the fifth inning. There was really no way around it."

"Honestly we tried every way possible to the sake of fairness and equity to get to a suspended game and allow the teams to get to the point of a suspended game and allow the teams to play nine tomorrow, but the rules just don't provide for that," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "We had both teams, the umpires and MLB wanting to do the right thing."

The Giants are in the thick of a competitive National League pennant race. With the loss, they fell 4 1/2 games out of first in the NL West and into a tie for the final Wild Card spot with the Braves, who have won five straight.

"Look, I'm frustrated, beside myself," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I hope they listen and watch what happened there because in this day and time it shouldn't happen, can't happen, I think, with the importance of these games."

The brief downpour was preceded by a mist with two outs in the top of the fourth, light enough to continue play. Buster Posey popped out to shortstop Starlin Castro to end the half inning, just as rain reared sharp, sideways and at a substantial rate.

"It was a 15-minute rain there and they couldn't get the tarp on in time," Bochy said. "I just think with this day and time, something should have been done a little bit more."

Wendelstedt conferred between innings with Cubs groundskeeper Roger Baird, who he reported a "very light rain" that "was not even showing on the radar." As soon as the downpour commenced, the tarp was called for.

"When we watched the radar loop, Mother Nature was not raining," Wendelstedt said. "No one had any facts that saw this coming."

"It was just a bad set of circumstances to get us where we are."

Bochy and Cubs manager Rick Renteria met to determine the infield conditions after just over 90 minutes into the delay, then again 45 minutes later. When asked if the hordes of Diamond Dry the crew hauled had made a worthy impact, Renteria offered little conviction.

"Significantly better? No," he said. "There was a lot of moisture in there."

"The one thing I think everybody has to be cognizant of is you don't want any of those guys to get hurt. Period. From being a former infielder, I can tell you that the footing on that was going to be pretty bad."

Hoyer said the only thing that could've salvaged the field was sunlight. As midnight approached, one crew worker was dragging the field -- everyone else was holding.

"If we felt like it was going to dry tonight, we'd still be waiting," Hoyer said. "Ultimately we got to the point where we realized that this is not going to dry."

The game lasted one hour and 35 minutes at the time of delay, and no rain came the rest of the night. The White Sox-Orioles game at U.S. Cellular Field 10 miles south wasn't even affected.

"I don't think anyone is at fault," Hoyer said. "It was a flash storm. As you know, Comiskey or the Cell didn't get any rain whatsoever. Really showed up on the radar really late and it was much harder than we thought. … The volume of the storm was much harder than anyone expected, so the tarp probably started getting out on the field later than it usually does."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for

Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants