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Giants win protest over ‘tarp game;’ play will resume Thursday

Updated: August 20, 2014 6:58PM



After more than a 4.5-hour delay Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Giants game that was eventually ruled a five-inning, 2-0 Cubs victory has been overturned as the Giants have won the protest.

The game will be resumed at 4 p.m. Thursday before the regularly schedule game.

The Giants filed the protest based on the Cubs’ lack of continued efforts to dry the soggy field over the final 90 minutes of the delay – following more than two hours of nearly constant work and application of a drying agent after a sudden and severe shower caused a series of snafus that drenched the field.

The game will be continued from the point it was stopped.

“We tried every way possible for the sake of fairness and equity to get to the point of a suspended game and allow the teams to play nine [on Wednesday], but the rules don’t provide for that,” Cubs team president Theo Epstein said.

The Giants’ status as a playoff contender is the only reason the teams, the umpires and major league baseball signed off on giving the situation the 4 hours, 34 minutes they did – almost 4 hours of which came after the rain stopped.

“It’s a very important game with playoff implications, so all parties involved from the office of the commissioner to the umpires to the front office of the Chicago Cubs – we exhausted all efforts to get this game played,” said umpire crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt, who allowed the top half of the fifth inning to be played in rain before calling for the tarp as the storm increased just before the start of the bottom half.

“Hundreds might be an exaggeration, but on our side, there was probably 20 to 30 communications [with MLB] just from the umpiring department,” Wendelstedt said. “The office of the commissioner takes this very seriously, and all the parties involved were kept up to date with every detail as they developed.”

The way the surreal sequence of events played out Tuesday night, the Giants seemed to have little chance of prevailing in the protest.

“It doesn’t seem like a real game in a pennant race, and obviously there were issues with the tarp coming out and how that went and contributed to it,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said, and that’s the organization’s responsibility. So we tried to wait as long as we possibly could because the Giants are in a pennant race and because we felt an obligation to do that.

“I don’t think anyone takes any particular pride in winning a game 2-0 in five innings in a situation like that. Those are the rules. But as an organization we really made a good faith effort to try to play this game for the right reasons, because it was a situation where they’re in a pennant race, and we’re not. And we want to give them every opportunity to play a full nine innings.”

The field became unplayable in large part because of how long it took to get the tarp on the field once Wendelstedt called for it. A grounds crew rushing through a fast-escalating and wind-driven downpour seemed to get the tarp roll stuck out of position and then tried to quickly unfurl the tarp from there – to little avail as it quickly got weighted down by water.

It looked bad enough that fans booed and then started chanting, “Pull! Pull! Pull!”

It wasn’t until the crew pulled the tarp back off the field and then tried again that they finally covered the infield.

“I’m frustrated. I’m beside myself,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. It’s probably not the right frame of mind for me [to comment] because it’s my last recourse. I hope they listen and watch what happened here.

“In this day and age, it cannot happen. It shouldn’t happen. So I’ll leave it at that.”

For all the water the field took during the tarp delay, it took more when the tarp was removed and enough water spilled to create pond-size puddles behind both sides of the infield.

Hours of raking, blow-drying, pushing the water and applying drying agent made no significant difference to the unplayable, “soft” footing, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

Even Bochy admitted that much. But the Giants seemed as upset by the fact that the drying effort by the grounds crew had stopped over the final hour-plus of the delay, with workers only raking and dragging the infield.

“It was 15 minutes of rain there, and they couldn’t get the tarp on in time,” Bochy said. “In this day and time, something should’ve been done a little bit more. … You know what? I’m done [commenting].”

Had the top of the fifth not been completed, rules would have allowed for a postponement or suspension.

“I think the problem that all the parties faced was that by the beautiful baseball rue book, there was nothing to put our hat on to suspend the game,” Wendelstedt said. “The game became regulation with the home team winning in the top of the fifth inning. That’s a complete game, a regulation, complete game. And there was really no way around it.”

Except to try to wait it out and get the rest of it in.

Of course, if the tarp had been summoned in the top of the fifth…

Wendelstedt said he allowed the game to continue in that half-inning because “it wasn’t even anything more than a light mist until the inning was completed.”

Between half-innings, he said, “I went over and spoke with [head groundskeeper] Roger [Baird], who as you know is one of the best in the business. Roger’s report from the weather man was five to possibly 10 minutes of very light rain that was not even showing on the radar.”

Once the rain increased at that point, Wendelstedt “called for the tarp immediately.”

And even then, he said, “According to the radar, mother nature was not raining. No one had any facts that saw this coming.

“Then it was just a bad set of unfortunate events that led us to where we are right now.”

That would’ve been a five-inning game finishing at 1:16 a.m. – and the Giants falling from a tie for the top National League wild-card spot into a virtual tie for the second spot. But now, play will resume on Thursday.

Hoyer defended his grounds crew. “Those guys do an incredible job,” he said. “Our grounds crew is fantastic, and in Chicago there are so many storms that pull os off so often that it’s a rare thing to happen. It was a bad confluence of events that let to that.”

If anything, some of those involved suggested, the rules governing suspended games should be reviewed to avoid something like this in the future.

“Both teams, the umpires and MLB wanted to do the right thing,” Epstein said, “wanted to get nine innings in. But the rule was specifically written, and it wasn’t provide for the circumstances we had tonight. So maybe it’s something that’s addressed in the future.

“But for 2014, those are the rules that covered it.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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