The fog in Wrigley Field made it difficult for outfielders to pick up a few fly balls, but it was a few bad pitches, not missed catches that cost the Washington Nationals in Thursday night's 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
There were, however, two flies that did get lost in the fog that rolled over the Cubs' 100-year-old home and stayed there throughout most of the series opener.
Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo popped up to left field in the first inning and Ryan Zimmerman, coming in, and Anthony Rendon, sprinting back, let it fall in for a two-out hit. Rizzo was stranded at first though, at the end of a scoreless bottom of the inning by Nats' starter Doug Fister.
Cubs' third baseman Luis Valbuena tripled with two down in the sixth on a fly to center that Denard Span never saw. It went over his head and bounced near the base of the ivy-covered wall in center.
"Just [that] the ball [that] goes above the lights is virtually... you can't see it at all," Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained to a reporter who asked what the players said about the visibility. "The one to center, Denard had no idea. One in the first inning, [Zimmerman] had no idea either, so it's tough. I've seen it on tv, never experienced it live, but difficult if that ball goes in the air."
Odd as the circumstances were, Williams did say he saw it happen before though he didn't remember exactly when.
"I remember seeing on television where they had to delay the game because the fog was so bad," Williams said. "It's hard. You have to make sure you communicate out there. Some innings it was better than others, but for the most part it was difficult."
Asked if there was any discussion of stopping the game at any point, Williams said there was some talk.
"They had talked about it out there," he said. "[Ian Desmond] was talking to [umpire] Jerry [Layne] about it and Jerry was thinking about it. But you can't -- it's not like rain where you've got radar and you can see, 'We'll delay 15 minutes and it will be gone.' You just have no idea. But both teams had to play in it. They got more than we did."
None of the fog-affected plays resulted in runs scoring.
The Cubs scored three on Fister in the fourth, then after the Nationals rallied to tie it at 3-3 with a run on an RBI single by Anthony Rendon in the sixth and a two-run double by Denard Span in the top of the seventh, Chicago added two more on a two-run double off Craig Stammen by Justin Ruggiano in the bottom of the inning which drove in what ended up being the winning run.
Fister, who threw eight scoreless against the Atlanta Braves in a dominant outing last time out, "... wasn't as clean tonight," according to his manager.
"Kept us in it though," Williams said. "We were able to tie it, and he kept us in it. Could have gotten much worse than that. So, he made some pitches when he needed to and we ended up tying it, but not enough tonight."
"Overall," Fister said, "I made some mistakes that they capitalized on and that's basically what it came down to."
He didn't want to take anything away from the Cubs, but Fister blamed himself for the hits he did give up.
"Obviously, they battled well tonight," he told reporters after the loss, "but like I said, I didn't execute a couple pitches. Got them middle of the plate, up in the zone, whatever it may be. And again, they capitalized on it, they took those bad pitches and turned them into a couple runs."
Chicago's big inning against Fister started with an infield single by Ruggiano, who hit a 1-2 fastball to third that backed Anthony Rendon up enough that the Nats' third baseman's rushed throw sailed wide of first. Rizzo lined a full-count fastball to right in the next at bat for a double that moved Ruggiano around to third and Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro hit an 0-1 fastball for a broken-bat liner to left that fell in for a two-run single.
One-out later, with Castro at second after a wild pitch, Welington Castillo hit a 1-2 cutter to center for an RBI single and a 3-0 lead.
Fister said he felt fine on the mound though he wasn't happy with the results.
"I felt good," he said. "Felt like I was executing, but at the same time, pitches need to be a little better. Need to make sure that they're in or out a little bit more, down more. If I get it in a little bit farther on [Castro's] jam shot over the infield, then who knows?
"But a lot of shoulda, woulda, coulda. It's just a matter of going out there and getting it done. So five days from now we're going to go back out and get it done."
Fister wasn't going to blame the lack of visibility or anything but a lack of execution on a few key pitches.
Dealing with the fog?
"It's just one of those random outside influences that you can't let bother you."