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Joe is gonna Joe.
The Cubs manager will do things his way. Maddon will sit down a hot Kris Bryant on Sunday despite the fact that he has the next day off and another one three days later. He'll bring in reliever Steve Cishek to pitch the ninth up 10-0 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday after Cishek also pitched in the first.
He'll do it his way and if his players bail him out, like his hitters did during his mismanagement of the last three games of the 2016 World Series, everything will be fine. And after a good week last, the Cubs turn their attention to a two-game series with Cleveland starting Tuesday with a 25-19 record. They are a game-and-a-half behind the Brewers in the NL Central but only because the Brewers have played (and won) three more games.
Overall, Maddon looks like he is well on his way to burning out a couple relievers by the All-Star break. The Cubs brought in new pitching coach Jim Hickey to replace the highly successful Chris Bosio in the off-season in the hope that Hickey could get through to the manager. Maybe Hickey, who worked with Maddon in Tampa Bay, could convince him not to do hare-brained things like trying to have Wade Davis get a seven-out save last year when he hadn't had a save of more than three outs in his career before the final month of the season.
So far Hickey isn't getting through.
There was Maddon last week, bringing in a reliever in the sixth inning to replace a starter, Tyler Chatwood, who was absolutely cruising and had thrown fewer than 80 pitches. Maddon said after the game that he "had to" do it because of the opportunity to engineer the lefty-lefty match-ups he loves as much as anything in baseball.
Of course, when you keep doing things like that you end up "having to" have two relievers make 20 appearances in the season's first 40 games. You overuse Carl Edwards Jr. and he slumps not two months into the season. Hey, Coach Hickey, you are here to challenge a manager who has a blind spot when it comes to bullpen usage. Get busy!
The weekend games with Cincinnati go into the books as capping off a winning series against a bad team. But as is so often the case in baseball, each game featured truly wacky and entertaining tidbits. Actually, the first game on Saturday, a 5-4 11-inning loss, was just excruciating. The Cubs batted 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position and lost a game they shouldn't have lost in a million years. There isn't much a manager can do about 1-for-16.
But it was a cakewalk from there. Jose Quintana stepped up and threw seven shutout innings to set the tone that evening. And Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ continued a great stretch of baseball. On the series, Happ was 5-for-11 at the plate and had nine walks (five of which were intentional!). That's an on-base percentage of over .700.
And on Saturday night alone, Zobrist led off five separate innings and reached in four of them. Then three times, second hitter Tommy La Stella followed with hits of his own, which resulted in Zobrist first-to-thirding it every time. Time for Zobrist to be the everyday leadoff man even if it cuts into Jason Heyward's playing time in a big way.
Sunday was all about Yu Darvish, and the so-far fragile starter had several opportunities to let little setbacks mess him up. He threw 39 pitches in the first inning but was able to get out of it with only one run against. In the fourth he walked the pitcher and took a moment to compose himself before coming back to finish the inning.
And in the fifth, the inning in which he's had so much trouble this season, he induced a double-play ground ball from Joey Votto that was the play of the game.
Shortstop Javy Baez turned two in that instance and of course did it with unparalleled flair, sliding past the bag while gobbling up the ground ball, reaching back to touch the base with his glove, and then hopping up and gunning the ball to first for the final out of the inning.
It capped off a typical Baez weekend that featured inciting a bench-clearing incident by complaining that the pitcher was celebrating too much (dude, next time you should try to remember that you have done a little celebrating yourself at times), struggling through the end of a 2-for-22 stretch at the plate and then hitting a towering home run on Sunday, just after Kyle Schwarber went deep.
Javy's gonna Javy.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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