The Cubs-Pirates game finally was postponed due to unplayable field conditions along the warning track after a rain delay of 3 hours, 12 minutes on Wednesday.
Heavy rain that fell for about two hours overwhelmed PNC Park's drainage system, causing standing water more than a foot deep to accumulate on the outfield track from foul line to foul line.
The game will be made up at 12:35 p.m. Monday. Both teams are off Thursday, but the Pirates already had played the maximum 20 games in 20 days allowed under MLB's labor agreement.
Even though both teams play in the NL Central, the Cubs weren't scheduled to visit Pittsburgh again this season.
It hadn't rained for more than an hour when the game was called off, after managers Lou Piniella and John Russell, the umpires and various Pirates executives, including president Frank Coonelly, watched the grounds crew struggle to move the pools of water.
With more heavy rain expected to start falling later in the evening, the game was called off even though the infield and outfield appeared to be playable.
"It's a shame. The grounds crew worked really hard but it still was a mess and I think the biggest thing is more rain is coming," said Russell, the Pirates manager. "The one thing that really shut everything down, we know it's going to rain again and it's going to get worse."
The PNC Park outfield and infield drainage systems are designed to handle monsoon-type rains, and the only visible standing water on the field was created when the infield tarp was removed in left field. But the rain was so heavy for so long, the water pooled on the warning tracks, where there is no drainage.
"The pumps work underneath the grass and usually it sucks it quick enough that it doesn't get on the warning track," Russell said. "It rained so much and so hard, the pumps couldn't keep up."
Duke, who has lost eight consecutive decisions against the Cubs, will be pushed back to start Friday against San Francisco, with Paul Maholm pitching Saturday and Ross Ohlendorf on Sunday.
Because of the rainout, Duke won't make his scheduled start Tuesday against Strasburg in the Nationals' rookie's highly anticipated major league debut.
Piniella said his pitching plans were indefinite and would be discussed on the plane ride to Houston, where the Cubs open a three-game series Friday. One problem is Ted Lilly would be in line to face the Pirates for the fourth time this season on Monday, which Piniella wants to avoid.
Carlos Zambrano, the former ace who shifted to the bullpen early in the season, will make his first start since April 20 in Houston. He had been scheduled to pitch Thursday.
"We're going to see if we can juggle this thing around so we can pitch somebody different on Monday," Piniella said. "Our preference, I think, right now, is just to get Zambrano on the mound pitching."
A three-city trip for the Cubs now becomes a four-city journey, from Pittsburgh to Houston back to Pittsburgh and then to Milwaukee for a three-game series starting Tuesday.
Before the game was called, one lightning bolt rattled the upper deck, causing fans to move en masse to lower levels. Lightning crashes periodically shook PNC Park, where the Pirates had not lost a game to weather this season.
The Pirates lead the season series 7-1, winning all five games played in Pittsburgh.
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