Astros-Cubs games on Friday and Saturday called off
Hurricane Ike, approaching the Texas coastline and expected to reach land this weekend, has temporarily thrown off the National League Central and wild-card races.
Baseball officials also were anticipating that Sunday's series finale also might be postponed. One of the scenarios under consideration was to play a doubleheader Monday, and make up the third game on Sept. 29 if it's needed to decide a playoff berth. The Cubs and Astros have no common off days after Monday.
"It'll be a fluid situation in regard to how the storm moves and other issues that may or may not occur," Houston general manager Ed Wade said after Friday's announcement.
Ike had sustained wins of near 100 mph on Thursday and was expected to make landfall on the Texas coast late Friday or early Saturday. Some forecasts projected that Ike could strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of at least 131 mph.
The Cubs were finishing a series in St. Louis on Thursday night and pitcher Jason Marquis wondered why the teams couldn't agree to meet in another city.
"Why don't we play at a neutral site?" he said. "It's ridiculous."
Wade said other venues were considered, but he would not be specific. Astros second baseman Mark Loretta said he heard that the Cubs wanted the Astros to meet them in Milwaukee -- which is a one-hour drive from Chicago and would draw a ballpark filled with Cubs' fans.
"We didn't think that was a very good idea to try to evacuate our families and take off and leave them behind and all that stuff," Loretta said. "I think that was quickly nixed."
St. Louis was also considered, but an assistant to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said the Astros didn't like that option, either.
Houston manager Cecil Cooper was adamant about keeping the games in Houston.
"Minute Maid is where we should play them," he said.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry expects commissioner Bud Selig to come up with a backup site by Friday if games can't be played in Houston. The Cubs planned to fly back to Chicago after Thursday's game and practice Saturday at home.
"We'll plan on playing somewhere Sunday and Monday," Hendry said. "Is everybody going to be inconvenienced a little bit? Absolutely. What can you do about it? You go to bed tonight hoping the storm weakens and there's no disaster in that area."
Chicago started Thursday with a 4½-game lead in the NL Central, but lost seven of its previous nine games. The Astros began Thursday four games behind Milwaukee in the race for the NL wild card.
Loretta expected the teams play a doubleheader on Sunday and finish the series on Monday.
"You have to start with the premise that it's a series of choices among not so convenient alternatives," he said. "You know it's going to be inconvenient for the players, the organizations, the fans, everything else. Just as the hurricane itself is inconvenient.
"This is all based on current weather models. We're hoping the Cubs can get in at a reasonable hour on Saturday. Assuming that, I think we'll be fine."
Later Thursday, the Houston Texans announced that their game against the Baltimore Ravens scheduled for Sunday afternoon has been postponed and moved to Monday night.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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