CHICAGO - After three straight gorgeous days in Chicago, the rain has hit Wrigley Field this afternoon.
The tarp is on the field with about a half-hour to go until the scheduled time for first-pitch, and the radar isn't looking good for the next couple hours.
We might be here for a while.
Ian Desmond is out of the Nationals' starting lineup today due to a tight back that he first felt during batting practice yesterday. Desmond said last night that he hoped to be in the lineup for this afternoon's series finale, but the back was still bothering him this morning, so manager Davey Johnson decided to start Anthony Rendon at shortstop and use Steve Lombardozzi at second again today.
"We're just gonna be on the safe side," Johnson said. "He's a tough cookie. He didn't want to come out of the game yesterday, but he was hurting. At least he admitted it was not that much better this morning, early. He's an iron man. He's been my iron man all year. I'm sure we miss him in the lineup, but you don't want to push him and make it worse."
Desmond has started 124 of the Nats' 126 games this season coming into today.
Meanwhile, Dan Haren reported that he's feeling a little more tired than usual after his workload the last handful of days. Haren got the save for the Nats in their 15-inning win over the Braves on Saturday, the same day that he threw a bullpen session and lifted upper-body. He then threw 103 pitches over six innings in a win over the Cubs on Tuesday.
"I asked him yesterday if he was available to close," Johnson cracked this morning.
Jokes aside, Johnson said the Nats might need to handle Haren a little differently over the next few days.
"With the workload that he had with the closing and in-between, the throwing on the side, and he threw quite a few pitches (on Tuesday), he'll probably have to take a couple days off before he throws on the side," Johnson said.
Johnson mentioned yesterday that he might give rookie right-hander Tanner Roark a shot to start a couple games before the end of the regular season. One scenario that would allow Haren to get an extra day of rest would be for the Nats to bump back his scheduled start on Sunday and have Roark start that game against the Royals. Then Haren could go Monday on a full five days' rest.
"That's conceivable," Johnson said of that scenario, "but I'm not going to make a decision until I have to."
Stephen Strasburg only threw 27 pitches on Saturday before getting ejected for throwing behind Andrelton Simmons, so Johnson says his righty should have plenty in the tank for this afternoon.
"I look for him to throw a complete game today because he's well-rested," Johnson said with a smile. "He's such a competitor. I don't know what went wrong last time out. It was probably more mental and emotional than anything else. He's a competitor and professional. I'm looking for a good game out of him."
On a light note, Jayson Werth was still chuckling about the eephus pitch that he took from Cubs righty Carlos Villanueva last night, a pitch that Werth said left him "lost in the abyss."
Werth said that he thought the 57 mph pitch from Villanueva was going over the screen when it first left the righty's hand. It then dropped in for a called strike, leaving Werth completely bewildered.
If you haven't seen the pitch - and Werth's reaction - check it out. I can't get enough of this clip.
Update: It's official - we're starting in a rain delay.
The tarp is still on the field and the rain is still falling. Again, we could be sitting here waiting for a little while.
Update II: The grounds crew has emerged and started to take the tarp off the field and the Cubs have announced a 3:20 CST estimated start.
A drizzle is still falling, but they're going to try and get this one started shortly.
Update III: After a two-hour rain delay, on the dot, we're under way at Wrigley.
The finale of this four-game series is finally ready to get going.