By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune reporter
7:57 PM PDT, August 26, 2012
Cubs starter Chris Volstad was on the verge of ending a 24-start winless streak Sunday night at Wrigley Field when a steady rain turned into a downpour, delaying the ending of the longest nightmare of his life.
"It's almost fitting the day took pretty long, right?" he said.
After 412 days between wins and a 2-hour, 23-minute rain delay Sunday afternoon, another half-hour wait wasn't going to kill him.
The 5-0 victory over the Rockies was officially called after eight innings at 6:46 p.m., igniting a clubhouse celebration for a pitcher who learned how to be a Cub the hard way.
It was Volstad's first victory since July 10, 2011, and obviously his first as a Cub since arriving in January in the Carlos Zambrano deal.
Players poured various beverages over Volstad's head, including some with hops and barley. They seemed to be happier for Volstad than Volstad was for himself. He pointed out that he pitched just as well in Los Angeles on Aug. 4 but lost 3-1. He has insisted all along that the streak hasn't affected him, and that "a lot of things are out of a pitcher's control."
But manager Dale Sveum said it was "human nature" for something like that to bother an athlete.
"I know that's a huge monkey off his back," he said. "The team was incredibly happy for him. When the game got called, you could see the emotion from the players."
Many players knew Volstad was only four games shy of the modern-day record for consecutive starts without a win. In records dating to 1918, Matt Keough and Jo-Jo Reyes share the mark for the longest winless stretch (28 games) of any starter. Keough accomplished the feat for the A's in 1978-79, while Reyes did it with the Braves and Blue Jays from 2008-11.
"It was fun," said Darwin Barney, who drove in a pair of runs. "He was real excited. The thing about it, when you're an offensive position player and you have that game when your team wins and you contribute and have a couple knocks, you go home feeling pretty good about yourself. He hasn't had one of those days in a while — a day where everything worked out.
"They didn't get a cheap hit off him today, and the defense picked him up. I was really happy for him. He's been pitching really consistent of late and he's just been getting some bad luck here and there. … I think he liked that little shower we gave him."
A beer shower?
"Probably Kool-Aid or something," Barney said. "Don't want to set a bad example."
Volstad (1-9) also snapped a 14-game losing streak. He pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing three hits in his best outing of the season. Sveum removed him for Manny Corpas with a 2-0 lead and two men on in the seventh, and after Corpas got out of the inning, Shawn Camp pitched a scoreless eighth.
The Cubs added three more in the bottom of the eighth before the steady rain turned into a downpour, forcing the umpires to delay it again.
"The tarp being pulled in the ninth inning, it was like 'C'mon, let's just get this over with,' " Volstad said.
Soon enough, it was.
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