Weather postpones Cubs' opener vs. Bucs

Game called following second lengthy delay after fourth; no makeup date announced

Weather postpones Cubs' opener vs. Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs took a half-game lead in the race for the National League's second Wild Card spot Monday night. But inclement weather and two lengthy delays halted their first attempt to gain some ground on the Pirates.

After a two-hour, nine-minute delay during the second inning, the Cubs and Pirates were further delayed before the fifth inning began. After waiting out the unpredictable weather another hour and 20 minutes, Monday night's game at PNC Park was officially postponed just before 11 p.m. CT.

"It was truly a nature situation. Typical Pennsylvania summer," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a native of Hazleton, Pa. "It felt familiar."

A makeup game will be rescheduled at a later date. The Cubs will start right-handers Jake Arrieta and Dan Haren the next two nights, as planned.

The Cubs' rotation beyond Wednesday has yet to be finalized. Lester threw only 31 pitches in 1 2/3 innings and could be available sooner than usual given his light workload.

"If it's right, then we'll do it. If it's not, then we'll stay in the normal [rotation]," Lester said. "I don't want to move guys around just to move guys around, just because I want to pitch because of what happened tonight."

Each team scored a run in the third inning, but the game was delayed again after the fourth as lightning flashed and thunder boomed around the ballpark.

Lightning strikes on Cutch catch

Just when it appeared the grounds crew was ready to take off the tarp around 10:10 p.m., the rain briefly returned and the tarp remained on the field.

"Nobody was upset here," Maddon said. "I told [crew chief Paul Nauert] I thought he did a good job with trying to get the game in. It just did not want to cooperate."

During the second delay, some good news for the Cubs played out on the PNC Park video board. The Braves beat the Giants, 9-8, in 12 innings to give the Cubs a half-game lead in the Wild Card standings.

"It was a great game to watch," Lester said. "Obviously it helps us, but at the same time, we've got to worry about what we're doing in this clubhouse day in and day out."

This could be an important week for the Cubs' postseason chances, as they're scheduled for two more games with the Pirates and four against the Giants at Wrigley Field.

But with Monday night's game washed away, the Pirates' four-game lead over the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot remained intact.

"We've got a long ways to go, and we've got to worry about beating the Pirates," Lester said. "If we beat the Pirates, that sets us up pretty well as well. We've got to worry about the task at hand and not what the Giants are doing."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.