Moehler, Astros beat Cubs in rain-shortened game
CHICAGO (AP)—Lance Berkman ducked off the field and into the dugout a first time before reluctantly returning to his position at first base.
When a thunderous boom accompanied a long series of lightning strikes around Wrigley Field, Berkman rushed off again and was not about to return under those conditions.
Seconds later, the umpires waved his Houston teammates off as well.
“Let me say this: I’ve never been more nervous on the field in my life,” Berkman said after the Astros withstood a wild night of weather featuring two powerful storms and two delays to beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in a game called in the eighth inning.
“Growing up in Texas, you see those kinds of storms all the time. You learn that lightning is nothing to fool around with,” Berkman said. “I’ll stand out there in the rainstorm all day long. But thunder and lightning, in that kind of proximity, it’s definitely a hazard. You have to get the fans out of there. We have to be out there, but if you give those fans a reason to hang around they will.”
The first delay came in the top of the sixth and lasted 2 hours, 45 minutes. As the initial storm hit the Chicago area, fans at Wrigley were advised to take cover on the concourse. A tornado warning was issued for downtown Chicago.
After going back out on the soggy field, the teams were able to play for only 50 minutes before Berkman led the charge off the field. Then, after a 39-minute delay, the game was finally called with one out in the bottom of the eighth.
“If they had continued the game, I wouldn’t have gone back out there. Not for a while,” Berkman said. “Like I said before the inning, you have to be an idiot to stand outside during a lightning storm. That’s just common sense.”
Berkman said he didn’t blame the umpires because they are under pressure to get the games in.
“When the last one hit, it was too close, even for us, and I pulled them off. I would never put any team or player or umpire in harm’s way,” crew chief Wally Bell said.
Bell said it was his responsibility to do everything possible to play all nine innings.
“This time of year with the playoffs and teams in contention, we know it’s tough,” he said. “I don’t really want to be here at midnight, but that’s our job, that’s what you do. When the second rain came, it just wasn’t going to happen. We talked to everybody and then called the game.”
After the first delay, the bleachers emptied and so did much of the lower and upper grandstands, although some fans stood under the overhang and rode out the storm that featured earsplitting thunder and spectacular lightning. When the brunt of the storm first hit with high winds and torrential rain, visibility at the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues was reduced to zero.
But when the grounds crew got the field ready to resume play after the initial delay, thousands of fans returned to their seats. After the second delay, the seats were practically empty.
“It was pretty crazy—lightning and tornado sirens going off. The weather was pretty nuts,” Dempster said. “Actually it looked like somebody stood above the stadium with a ziplock bag full of water and opened it up. It really did, you could barely even see right field.”
Even with the loss, Dempster said the umpires made the right call at the end.
“It was the smart thing to do,” he said. “You don’t want anybody getting struck by lightning.”
Lee made it all the way to third, moving up when Chicago right fielder Kosuke Fukudome overthrew catcher Geovany Soto and the ball bounced into the stands for an error. Lee was stranded when Jim Edmonds made a diving catcher of Hunter Pence’s sinking liner.
The Astros made it 2-0 in the fourth when Dempster issued a four-pitch walk with two outs and the bases loaded to No. 8 hitter Humberto Quintero, who was batting .210 entering the game. Consecutive singles by Lee, Pence and Ty Wigginton loaded the bases.
Astros OF Michael Bourn was out of the starting lineup for an eighth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Bourn said he was still a little sore and manager Cecil Cooper said he hopes to have the speedy leadoff hitter back in the lineup in the next few days. … Astros reliever Geoff Geary injured his groin when he slipped on the mound while pitching one inning. … Cubs manager Lou Piniella kept three starters out of the lineup for a rest: Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot. DeRosa pinch-hit in the seventh and lined out to Carlos Lee, who made a nice catch in the ivy in left field with a runner on.