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Cubs-Astros moved to Milwaukee

Cubs-Astros series moved to Milwaukee

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros will end their Hurricane Ike hiatus and play a night game Sunday and a day game Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The two teams will play the third game, if needed, on Sept. 29 in Houston, after the regular season is over. Major League Baseball said Sunday's game will start at 7:05 p.m. CT, and Monday's game will be played at 1:05 p.m. CT. The Astros will be the home team. Carlos Zambrano will start against Randy Wolf on Sunday, with Brian Moehler starting for Houston on Monday.

Tickets for both days will be priced at the Marquee Game rates, which range from $25 to $60, and seating will be sold in the Field and Loge Levels only at Miller Park. Tickets went on sale at 9 p.m. CT Saturday, and fans will be able to purchase them at Cubs.com, Brewers.com, and Astros.com. Fans were encouraged to use the "print at home" option when purchasing tickets.

Tickets also may be purchased at the Miller Park Box Office, but phone orders will not be available.

"It's unfortunate what happened," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Saturday night. "Our preference would be that the tragedy never happened to the state of Texas and we could've played the games on schedule.

"But once the storm came, there didn't seem to be any alternative," Hendry said, "and I think the Astros and the Commissioner's Office worked hand-in-hand to come up with the best short-term solution they could with all the weather problems we're having all over the country.

"Let's make the best of it and hopefully the families of all the people connected with the Astros and Houston are safe," he said.

The Cubs had returned to Chicago Thursday after their series in St. Louis ended, while the Astros waited out the storm in Houston. Astros manager Cecil Cooper was without power at his home in Katy, Texas, on Saturday and without many options.

"I'm definitely not happy with it," Cooper said. "It's bigger than me, I guess. You want to play in your home ballpark. It's a bit of a disadvantage. They've got the fans there that can drive up [from Chicago]. But what else can you do?"

Rich Levin, MLB's senior vice president of public relations, said Milwaukee was chosen because the city of Houston was still reeling from the effects of the hurricane. At least 80 percent of Houston was without power Saturday night and it will take some time for the city to recover.

"They had a very powerful hurricane go through the city," Levin said. "We didn't think it was appropriate to play there. They have a lot of issues to take care of in Houston. Playing baseball is not a top priority."

Miller Park may be an easy drive from Chicago, but it also can handle any weather conditions.

"What with all the rainy weather, the chief reason was finding a place where we knew we could get the games in," Levin said. "Miller Park has a roof. That was a determining factor."

The three-game Cubs-Astros series was to begin Friday, but the threat of Hurricane Ike delayed that. Pam Gardner, president of business operations for the Astros, toured Minute Maid Park Saturday to assess the damage and told MLB.com that the ballpark was playable. But she agreed with MLB's decision to shift the series to Milwaukee.

"Honestly, it comes down to the right thing to do," Gardner said. "Yes, we could play a game, but is that right thing to do with what people are dealing with personally? That became the driving force for us."

There was the logistical issue of whether the Cubs could get to Houston, plus the question of whether the Astros could leave. The Astros players were told Saturday to be prepared to leave early Sunday.

Hendry was waiting by the phone with the rest of the players for word on Saturday. The Cubs were prepped for a last-minute road trip.

"I told our guys [Saturday] to come to Wrigley [Sunday] morning and be ready to go [Sunday] night," Hendry said. "I certainly didn't have a destination for them, but that's what I told them at 3 o'clock today -- that they had to be prepared to be ready and be on a bus and be bussed to the airport, or bussed to play elsewhere, and be ready to play."

Miller Park won't be very "neutral" for the Astros. It's been dubbed "Wrigley Field North" because of the proximity to Chicago -- Milwaukee is only 90 miles north -- and the Cubs swept their only series there this year, from July 28-31, playing in front of sellout crowds every game.

"Milwaukee's kind of a home game for [the Cubs], isn't it?" Houston's Mark Loretta said.

Houston owner Drayton McLane had lobbied for the games to be played at Minute Maid. The Astros have won 14 of their last 15 games, and don't want to lose the home-field advantage.

This series is essential to both teams as they battle for postseason berths. The Cubs lead the National League Central by six games, while the Astros were two games behind Milwaukee in the Wild Card standings.

"We didn't have any input; that's something Major League Baseball decided to do," said Brewers pitcher David Bush, the team's player representative. "The main thing is getting those games in. We have enough stuff that we need to focus on here, so I don't think anybody cares."

The Cubs are trying to finish in first place in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1907-08. Rich Harden returned to the rotation Thursday night in St. Louis, and Zambrano (13-5, 3.58 ERA) had been scheduled to start Saturday against Houston.

"Our rotation is pretty well set, so we really wanted to play," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Thursday. "Now, depending on what will happen with the doubleheader, we're looking at bringing back a pitcher on his fourth day instead of his fifth day, so it'll probably cause us some problems."

Since 1961, there have been two instances when weather forced Major League Baseball to move series to a new location. The first was Sept. 13-14, 2004, when Hurricane Ivan off the coast of Florida caused the Marlins and Expos to relocate from Miami to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

In 2007, the Cleveland Indians played their home opener in Milwaukee, shifting a three-game series against the Angels on April 10-12 to Miller Park. Persistent snow left more than 10 inches at Jacobs Field, postponing a four-game series against the Mariners. Minute Maid Park was one of the options being considered as a neutral site for the Angels-Indians series.

Tickets for that Angels-Indians series were $10. The Indians won the first game, 7-6, in front of 19,031 at Miller Park, and drew 16,375 for the second game -- a 4-1 Angels' win -- and 17,090 for the third game, which Cleveland won, 4-2. The Indians played their first home game on April 13 that year against the White Sox.

The Cubs have had games cancelled because of hurricanes on at least three previous occasions. In 1911, the Aug. 30-31 games at Philadelphia were affected by heavy rains from a storm. In 1938, three games -- Sept. 19 at Brooklyn and Sept. 20-21 at Philadelphia -- were cancelled because of bad weather. The 1911 and 1938 hurricanes were nameless -- the practice of naming storms wasn't adopted until the 1950s.

In 2004, Hurricane Frances forced the Cubs' games on Sept. 3-5 at Florida to be rescheduled. Chicago had to play a doubleheader on a scheduled off-day in Miami on Sept. 20 -- between games in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on what turned out to be a 12-game, 11-day trip. They started the trip a half-game behind San Francisco in the Wild Card race.

The Cubs won eight of the first 10 games before LaTroy Hawkins blew a save opportunity in the ninth inning in what turned out to be a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Mets on Sept. 25. That loss trimmed the Cubs' Wild Card lead to a half-game, and they lost seven of the next eight games to fall out of the race.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Alyson Footer, Adam McCalvy and Barry M. Bloom contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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