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Two Cubs-Astros games off due to Ike

Two Cubs-Astros games postponed

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs' games Friday and Saturday against the Houston Astros have been postponed to avoid Hurricane Ike, which is churning in the Gulf of Mexico and headed in the direction of Texas.

The Cubs were to return to Chicago after Thursday's series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals and then wait for word on where they'll play. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said the team will take Friday off, then have a workout at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

When the three games against the Astros will be played has yet to be determined, but the Cubs will show up at Wrigley on Saturday with their luggage packed and ready to go. One option will be to fly to Houston and play a doubleheader Sunday and one game on Monday, which is an off-day for both teams.

"The best thing would be the storm doesn't hit, and we're on our way to Houston and you go to play two Sunday and one Monday and do the best you can," Hendry said. "That would be the best result, because then there's no damage and nobody got hurt."

The Cubs and Astros were originally scheduled to open a three-game series Friday at Minute Maid Park. The storm was expected to make landfall early Saturday, and flights to Houston have been canceled and some parts of the area have been evacuated.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I'm not a weatherman, so I'm not going to get too involved in the scenario. I think you don't put players in danger, you don't put families in danger who are going to the ballpark just to play a baseball game. We'll see what happens."

Piniella was watching the weather reports in the visiting manager's office at Busch Stadium on Thursday.

"Unless projections change, it's going right through Houston Saturday morning," he said.

The Cubs currently lead the National League Central, and having to tweak the schedule, play a doubleheader and lose an off-day Monday before an important series against the Milwaukee Brewers could be a distraction.

"This is just a little 'Cubby occurrence,'" Piniella said. "I am getting used to them, I can smile about them. Is it a distraction? I don't know why it is. You can't do anything about the weather. We could be here in St. Louis and have three rainouts."

The Cubs recognized the Astros did not want to leave their families in the Houston area to start the series at a neutral site on Friday.

"Everyone's in agreement that you have to do what's best for the safety of the people down there first," Hendry said.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was considering neutral sites for makeup games.

"Is Wrigley neutral?" Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "Wherever they pick is fine. We'll be ready to play. You can't always control your conditions, but you can control what you're able to do. Nobody said it's going to be easy, and sometimes you hit speed bumps, and this is a big one, but it's all right. We'll be just fine."

The Cubs players were relieved to know they weren't going to be flying to Houston on Thursday night.

"Nobody wants to be flying into the gigantic eye of that thing," Dempster said. "Ike's packing a punch. I hope we don't have to witness any of it."

In September 2004, the Florida Marlins were forced to play a home series against Montreal at U.S. Cellular Field because of Hurricane Ivan. Hurricane Frances forced the Marlins to play one of their makeup games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. That year, the Cubs played 26 games in 24 days from Sept. 10-Oct. 3, including two doubleheaders Sept. 10 and Sept. 20.

"The first priority and the one that drives the train is the human element and the community avoiding a disaster," Hendry said. "The devastation the last few years [in that area] is nothing to look the other way at and prioritize a baseball game before that."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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