Cubs set up camp at Miller Park
Fan advantage goes to Chicago in matchup against Astros
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs acknowledge Miller Park is not exactly a neutral site for their makeup games against the Houston Astros.
"Not too many places are [neutral]," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said Sunday. "We went to St. Louis, and there were a lot of Cubs fans there. We have a lot of people behind us no matter where we're playing.
"The Astros came to our park and swept us [Sept. 1-3] so I think it's a matter of playing the baseball games," Dempster said. "At times the fans can give you adrenaline and emotion, but at the same time, it comes down to the players executing and doing what they need to do."
It was a little confusing as to whom was the home team Sunday at Miller Park. The Astros wanted the visitors' clubhouse, because it was more familiar and because Houston manager Cecil Cooper knows the staff there. But they were wearing their road grays as well as the Cubs. This series kicks off what will now be an eight-game trip for Houston, and the Astros apparently didn't pack their home whites.
The Cubs were impressed by the Brewers' plush locker room, but didn't get to peek inside Milwaukee manager Ned Yost's office. That door was locked, and Cubs manager Lou Piniella shared space in the coaches' section.
"It's all right," Piniella said. "It's nice and roomy in there."
Derrek Lee had never been in the home clubhouse at Miller Park and didn't know where it was.
"I walked right past it," Lee said.
The Cubs were willing to play anywhere to make up the three games, which were postponed by Hurricane Ike's arrival in Texas.
"Look, you can't do anything about the weather," Piniella said. "The Houston-Galveston area went through a lot with Hurricane Ike. The important thing is the area recovers and recovers quickly, and that not too many people have to suffer for any long periods of time. Those are the most important things. Outside of that, these ballgames are secondary in nature. You had to get them in somewhere."
The Cubs had two unexpected days off Friday and Saturday in Chicago, and the workout Saturday was canceled because of rain. Some of the pitchers were able to throw on the side Friday. Most just hung out and played cards in the clubhouse Saturday. The time off gave Micah Hoffpauir a chance to assess the damage at his home in Jacksonville, Texas, which was without power because of the storm.
"That's something we can deal with," Hoffpauir said.
Lee went home to visit family in Sacramento, Calif., while Alfonso Soriano took advantage of the down time to sleep, have a nice dinner and play with his children in Chicago.
Dempster, one of the Cubs' player representatives along with pitcher Ted Lilly, was involved in the conversations with Major League Baseball regarding making up the games.
"We're just glad we can get the games in somewhere," Dempster said. "We're glad everybody's safe, and we'll go and try to play some baseball games. It feels little weird to be in here [in the Brewers' clubhouse] but we'll go out and try to win a ballgame today."
The crowd on Sunday night was definitely pro-Cubs. The fans cheered when the Cubs finished batting practice, and yelled encouragement as Sunday's starter Carlos Zambrano headed to the dugout. Chants of "Let's Go Cubbies" started right after the national anthem.
"It's definitely to our advantage," Lee said. "We should have more of our fans here than they will have from Houston, especially with what's going on down there. Under the circumstances, you have to play wherever you can."
"Wherever we go, we have a lot of fans," Soriano said. "If we go to Houston, we have a lot of fans."
The Cubs didn't find out where they were playing until late Saturday, and took a bus to Miller Park on Sunday.
"We're glad to be able to get two games in and play anywhere, whether it's here or a high school field or wherever we could play," Dempster said. "It's just nice to get a game in."
And Cubs fans worried about Piniella driving himself to Milwaukee can relax. He and coach Matt Sinatro took the team bus. There were no wrong turns, which the two encountered on their drive from Chicago to Cincinnati.
"If we had driven," Piniella said, "we'd probably ended up in Aberdeen."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.