Storm clouds move over Wrigley Field delaying the start of a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: September 18, 2012 7:46AM
Pitching past midnight was a new experience for Chicago Cubs starter Travis Wood.
In a game delayed more than 3½ hours by rain, the left-hander allowed three runs in the third inning but little else Monday night during a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It was a long wait, but you just wait and prepare yourself for the ballgame,” Wood said. “That’s probably the latest I ever started a game and the latest I’ve been pitching.”
Kevin Correia tossed seven innings of two-hit ball and Starling Marte hit a two-run triple to lead Pittsburgh.
With the Pirates still in playoff contention, the teams waited out two storms at Wrigley Field that pushed back the start for 3 hours, 37 minutes. The first pitch was thrown at 10:42 p.m. CDT, and Joel Hanrahan delivered the final one at 1:28 a.m. on Tuesday.
Wood (6-12) worked 5 2-3 innings, giving up four hits. He walked one and struck out a career-high nine.
“That one inning got me. I’d have liked to keep the pitch count down a little bit,” Wood said. “I had a lot of 3-2 counts. They battled, we battled. They were just a little bit better.”
Paid attendance was 33,017, but fewer than 5,000 fans remained when the game finally started. That number steadily dwindled, with perhaps 1,000 on hand for the final out.
The delay took a toll on players, too.
“You can chalk it up to maybe sitting around all day waiting,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Both teams it seemed were in a daze out there.”
Pittsburgh tied Milwaukee for third place in the NL Central at 74-72. Both are 2½ games behind division rival St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot, with the Los Angeles Dodgers also in their path.
Correia (11-9) walked one and struck out six, equaling a season high. He whiffed the first four batters he faced and matched his longest outing of the season.
“In a game that starts at 10:40, the hitters are going to be aggressive,” Correia said. “It’s not going to be a game where you take a lot of pitches, so if you can pound the zone with quality pitches, you’re going to have a decent outing usually.”
Jason Grilli worked a hitless eighth and Hanrahan got three outs for his 36th save in 39 chances. Darwin Barney had both of Chicago’s hits.
The Pirates touched up Wood for three runs in the third, including Marte’s key triple. Jose Tabata drove in Marte with a double to deep center.
Clint Barmes was hit by a pitch and Brock Holt’s single up the middle on a 3-2 count sent Barmes to third. After Correia was called out on strikes, Marte tripled to left.
The rookie has tripled in three consecutive games.
“They come in bunches,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think the young man has an opportunity to possibly lead the league in triples someday. That’s just a lot of usable speed out there. That’s the biggest swing of the night for us.”
Hurdle said his team stayed relaxed during the rain delay by watching video and the Broncos-Falcons NFL game.
“We had plenty of time on our hands,” Hurdle said. “We made good use of it.”
Pittsburgh loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but reliever Michael Bowden retired Holt on a grounder.
Trying to play spoiler and avoid a 100-loss season, the Cubs (58-89) had won seven of eight.
“These guys started talking about it a couple of weeks ago, about (not) losing 100 games. That’s their motivating factor, as well as all of us, because nobody wants to be associated with that,” Sveum said before the game. “To be able to sit back and knock people out of the playoffs or knock them one game less, that’s (also) what you get motivated (for) in September when you’re out of it.”
NOTES: The Cubs host NL Central-leading Cincinnati beginning Tuesday night, and Sveum said he doesn’t want the Reds to clinch the division title this week at Wrigley Field. “Nobody wants anybody to clinch on your turf, that’s for sure,” Sveum said. “It’s inevitable that they’ll end up clinching, you just don’t want them to do it at your place.” ... Wood had struck out eight batters three times. ... Barney extended his career-best hitting streak to 12 games with a second-inning single. ... Bryan LaHair has received limited playing time since the arrival of 1B Anthony Rizzo from the minors. Sveum said LaHair’s best bet is to play in the offseason. “I think for his sake he needs to go play winter ball and get those at-bats he missed out on and be ready for spring training like he was this year,” Sveum said.