Finale amid four straight day games

Finale amid four straight day games

CHICAGO -- In the same week as the 20-year anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field, playing under the lights is being scrutinized for another reason.

The Cubs want the Chicago City Council to lift a ban on Friday and Saturday night games at Wrigley Field, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report. The team and the city first agreed to night games in 1988, with up to 18 games allowed under the lights per season. In 2004, the limit was raised to 30.

Still, only day games can be played on Friday and Saturday, in an effort to keep Wrigleyville relatively quiet on what already are noisy Chicago nights. The players' benefits for weekend night games include a few extra hours sleep after a Thursday night road game and cooler playing conditions than found during the day.

So, day or night?

"It's kind of a double-edged sword, because I love the day games here," Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. "But probably rest-wise, it's better to have a few more night games. You can go both ways. I think the majority of the guys do enjoy the day games and the atmosphere of the day games here at Wrigley. Maybe rest-wise, it would be a little bit better to have the night games."

The Cubs play their second of four straight day games in Wednesday's series finale with Houston. Seven of the nine games on this homestand will be played under the sun. The other two are ESPN prime-time contests. Cubs first baseman Daryle Ward would like to see more evening starts.

"We've got lights on the stadium, we might as well use them," Ward said. "I thought that was kind of strange that we're not allowed to play night games on Friday and Saturday. That's weird. It's a tradition of the Chicago Cubs, you don't want to get rid of that, but you want to try and compromise a little bit. I think half [day] and half [night] would be good."

Local politicians told the Sun-Times the area around the ballpark is already crowded enough on those nights thanks to popular restaurants and bars. A baseball game would be pushing capacity.

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney is OK with a ceiling of 30 night games, but he would like flexibility to make certain night games on Friday and Saturday depending on the aforementioned benefits.

"It's about measuring our schedule up against weather and the time of year and giving ourselves the best chance to win," Kenney told the Sun-Times.

The Cubs had one quick turnaround this season from being on the road Thursday night to at home on Friday afternoon. They played at Tampa Bay the night of June 18 and flew back to Chicago in time for a 1:20 CT start against the White Sox the next day. Second baseman Mike Fontenot said he could tell many Cubs were jet-lagged, but they beat their crosstown rivals, 4-3.

By this stage in their baseball careers, many Cubs are used to the rigors of travel and playing in the afternoon. The Cubs' Triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, is a member of the Pacific Coast League and routinely heads to the West Coast. Then there's Spring Training day games in Mesa, Ariz., every March.

"That's just part of it," Fontenot said of the day games. "Playing in the Minor Leagues, the travel there is so crazy, especially in the Pacific Coast League, that when you get here, just playing day games doesn't really affect me a whole lot."

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Jason Marquis (6-7, 4.68 ERA)
Marquis took the loss in his previous outing, against the Pirates. The right-hander gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings and struck out two, but he didn't get any run support, as the Cubs were shut out at home for the first time this season. Marquis did post his ninth quality start, but he has lost his past four decisions. The Cubs have scored one run or fewer when he's on the mound in five of his past six starts.

HOU: RHP Brandon Backe (6-10, 4.72 ERA)
Backe took a no-decision in his previous outing, but he pitched well enough to win, allowing three runs over six-plus innings to the Mets in a game later won on Mark Loretta's pinch-hit homer. Backe last faced the Cubs on June 20 at Minute Maid Park and yielded four runs over 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight. He is 3-6 with a 4.50 ERA over 13 games on the road this year, allowing 35 runs over 70 innings.

Tidbits
Lee is eight hits and three games away from 1,500 for his career in both categories. ... Aramis Ramirez is one double and one home run shy of becoming the first Cubs player since Hack Wilson to tally 20 homers and 30 doubles in five straight seasons. Wilson did it from 1926-30. ... Micah Hoffpauir went 2-for-5 with a double, two runs and an RBI in Triple-A Iowa's 9-4 loss to Salt Lake on Monday. ... Jake Fox ran his hitting streak to nine games with two base knocks in Double-A Tennessee's 6-5 loss to Carolina. ... Josh Vitters, the Cubs' 2007 first-round Draft pick, homered in Class A Boise's 8-5 win against Yakima to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• WGN

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 11-6, 4.35) vs. Cardinals (Braden Looper, 10-9, 4.29), 1:20 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 12-4, 2.76) vs. Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer, 8-4, 4.01), 2:55 p.m. CT

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.