Even though we had the Cubs’ schedule several hours ahead of the official reveal on MLB Network, some of our suppositions about start times were proven wrong. Perhaps the most jarring of those is that each of their six Friday home games will be played at night for the first time in franchise history. For more context, that is triple the number of regular-season Friday night home games that have been played in club history.
Day games were a necessity until late in the 1988 season, what with the whole absence of lights at Wrigley Field and all. As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian shared on Twitter via Cubs historian Ed Hartig, the first 1,157 Friday games played at Wrigley took place during the day. The first time they played at night on a Friday was against the Brewers on September 8, 2017 in a game that required a special exemption from the league and city.
Milwaukee was none too pleased with the schedule change and “vigorously objected” to the idea that the Cubs were making the move for competitive reasons. The whining was all for naught as the Brewers actually ended up winning the game 2-0, after which they turned around and won the next two games 15-2 and 3-1 to sweep the weekend. More than one Cubs fan called it karma.
The Cubs’ second Friday night game took place just over a year later when they played the Reds on September 14, 2018 after an ill-fated makeup game in Washington. Though the Cubs ended up winning against Cincy, losing Pedro Strop to a hamstring injury suffered while batting for himself during a multi-inning relief appearance.
Despite going 11-6 in their final 17 games, starting with that ugly win in DC, the Cubs literally limped to the finish line and ended up tied with the Brewers after 162 games. That led to anemic losses in Game 163 and the Wild Card, one of the most frustrating and somehow fitting conclusions imaginable.
The moral of the story is that Friday night games at Wrigley don’t exactly conjure the best memories. The Cubs have a chance to change that right out of the gate when they open the season against the Brewers on July 24 in a game being carried by ESPN. Surely Marquee will be on Comcast by then so the local blackout of the game doesn’t further sour millions of fans, right?
The Pirates come to town a week later, then it’s on the road for a bit before coming back to host the Brewers on August 14 and the White Sox the next week. Those games are part of a 10-game homestand, the Cubs’ longest of the season. The Cards come to down on September 4, followed by the Twins two weeks later to round out the Friday slate.
All told, the Cubs will play just 12 total day games this season, eight of which come at home and nine of which are scheduled to start prior to 3pm CT. It’s going to feel a little weird, though I guess no more so than it already feels to be restarting the season in the midst of a pandemic.