Miller Park to host Astros, Cubs
Weather forces move from Houston for Sunday, Monday
HOUSTON -- The Astros will head to Milwaukee on Sunday to play two games of their series with the Cubs, Major League Baseball announced Saturday evening.The Astros and Cubs will play a 7:05 p.m. CT game Sunday at Miller Park, a 1:05 p.m CT game on Monday and a third game on the 29th, if necessary. The Astros will be the home team for these games. Randy Wolf will start for the Astros on Sunday, with Brian Moehler starting on Monday. The Cubs will start Carlos Zambrano on Sunday. 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 were encouraged to go to Brewers.com to purchase the seats, and select the "print at home" option. Tickets also may be purchased at the Miller Park Box Office, but phone orders will not be available. The decision to play the series at Miller Park arrived less than 24 hours after Hurricane Ike, labeled as a Category 2 but only one mph short of qualifying for a Category 3, slammed into Galveston and made its way up to Houston, home to nearly four million residents. The announcement was made after days of haggling between the Astros, the Cubs, the Commissioner's Office and the MLB Players Association. A slew of scenarios were bandied about, including playing one game in Milwaukee on Sunday and two in Houston on Monday, playing the entire series at Turner Field in Atlanta, or playing two in Houston on Monday and playing the third game upon the conclusion of the regular season. Ryan-Sanders Baseball, which operates the Astros' Triple-A and Double-A clubs, offered to host at least one game of the series at The Dell Diamond in Round Rock. At one point early Saturday afternoon, select Astros uniformed personnel were told to be ready to travel to Milwaukee for one game Sunday. However, later in the afternoon, the city of Houston closed downtown to the public to enable the cleanup from Hurricane Ike to begin, presumably ending the Astros' hopes to host two games of the Cubs series at Minute Maid Park. With at least 80 percent of the city without power and billions of dollars estimated in damage to the Houston and Galveston areas, it became increasingly obvious that hosting baseball games at Minute Maid Park was not a reasonable option, even though the ballpark wasn't affected structurally by the storms. "Honestly, it comes down to the right thing to do," said club president of business operations Pam Gardner. "Yes, we could play a game, but is that the right thing to do with what people are dealing with personally? That became the driving force for us. "It's going to take a while for the city to recover. Most people don't have power. When 90 percent don't have power, it would be unfair for fans who try to get down here, when they really shouldn't. Had we been able to play, we would have preferred that. It's a natural disaster and you have to adjust, so we did. It's not perfect. It's the best we can do." Ultimately, Commissioner Bud Selig picked Miller Park. Because the venue has a roof, it would not be affected by weather-related issues that have inundated large portions of the country. "Honestly, we would love to have played games in Houston, but with the situation with the aftermath, the city needs to get back in order," Gardner said. "It's an act of God and there's not a lot you can do. Milwaukee has a roof, so we don't have to deal with weather." The Astros-Cubs series was supposed to be played in Houston beginning Friday, but the impending arrival of Hurricane Ike prompted the Astros and MLB to decide Thursday to postpone games Friday and Saturday. Officials were scrambling to determine alternate sites. Milwaukee was initially ruled out, partly because of an event scheduled on the field over the weekend and partly because the series could amount to extra home games for the Cubs, who play 90 miles down Interstate 94 at Wrigley Field. Houston owner Drayton McLane lobbied for the games to be played at Minute Maid Park. The Astros have won 14 of their last 15 games, and they didn't want to lose the home-field advantage. This series is essential to both teams as they battle for postseason berths. The Cubs have a six-game lead in the National League Central, while the Astros were 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the Wild Card standings when Saturday's decision was announced. Astros players and personnel were also exposed to the effects of Hurricane Ike, and they understand why the games can't be played in Houston. But to play in a venue that is a two-hour drive from Chicago isn't sitting well with some. "I'm definitely not happy with it," said manager Cecil Cooper, who has no electricity at his home in Katy. "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?" Roy Oswalt, who has no power in his Memorial home, was able to access the Internet late Saturday and viewed the damage to downtown Houston. In that vein, he wasn't surprised the Astros were unable to arrange to play their home games at home. "It's going to be a good week before they'll get back up and running," he said. "I know we can't play, but I don't understand why they can't find another site [other than Miller Park]. It's so close to Chicago, where guys can drive to the ballpark. It's more convenient for them than for us."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.