THE CUBTOBER DIARY: The quick life of “Mold Gate”

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Manager Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals looks on from the dugout in the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs during game three of the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field on October 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – For once, bizarre things are happening to the team that will enter the dugout on the first base side of Wrigley Field.

Funny how these are starting to make their way from the Cubs to their opponents, as it did over the last 24 hours with Nationals as the fate of Game 4 was in mother nature’s hands.

Mainly it transpired with Dusty Baker’s comments following the postponement of Tuesday’s game at Wrigley Field due to steady rain.

First question, who’s starting Game 4 for the Nationals?

“We’re going to go as planned with Tanner,” said Baker, referring to the originally planned starter Roark.

This was a shock to many, since the day off would give the Nationals time to have Stephen Strasburg back on the mound with normal rest. He would be the preferred starter for an elimination game, considering he just allowed two runs in Game 1 and posted a 15-4 record this season.

So why no Strasburg? Baker said an illness for the starter, caused by some issues in accommodations.

“Yes, and a lot of my team is under the weather with the change of weather and the air conditioning in the hotel and the air conditioning here,” said Baker. “It’s just this time of the year for mold around Chicago — I think it’s mold. I mean, I have it, too.”

Interesting. Not completely unbelievable, but blaming mold for a sick pitcher is certainly a new one for baseball fans as they questioned Baker for his decision to stay with Roark. At least for about 18 hours.

Late Wednesday morning, the Nationals changed course and named Stephen Strasburg the starter for Game 4 after all. Baker said he was feeling better today and was asked whether he thought this was a possibility when he said that he couldn’t pitch on Tuesday.

The answer was multi-layered.

“Not really. You know, because I didn’t — I was planning on Tanner pitching. But you know, things can — the thing about baseball is that you have to — things are subject to change and it was a — maybe the rain helped him and helped us, like I hoped that it would,” said Baker. “I said my prayers and said, hey, man, let the rain try to help us.

“I know I talked to some Hawaiian buddies of mine and they were saying, hey, sometimes, that’s a blessing from the sky. They call it manna. I believe in that.”

Sounds like something Joe Maddon would say, but the Cubs manager was more consistent with his plan for his pitcher on the mound. Before the series it was Jake Arrieta and it remained that way from the moment the game rained out. Maddon did adjust his lineup a bit with Strasburg taking the mound in stead of Roark – Jason Heyward replaces Kyle Schwarber and goes to right while Ben Zobrist moves from right to left – but the manager said that he anticipated such a scenario taking place.

“It was purely a hunch. First of all, I have no intelligence, we already know that. Truly, it’s something that you think could have happened,” said Maddon of Strasburg starting after all. “If, in fact, Strasburg was ill, and I believe that, there’s ways to be un-ill the next day. You just can’t count him out. And so going back last night post-game, or post no-game, I thought there was a possibility, but again, it didn’t matter.

“The only thing I had to prepare for was the difference in the lineup if that was necessary; we did that.”

In that process, the short-lived “Mold Gate” comes to a pause or even a conclusion. At last, its drama at Wrigley Field created by the team the Cubs are facing instead of themselves.