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Let's get it out of the way: I don't disagree with Joe Maddon bringing in Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning to face the meat of Cleveland's order in Game 6 on Tuesday night even though the Cubs had a five-run lead. There was a man on first, Francisco Lindor at the plate and Mike Napoli looming. Perhaps more importantly, the other bullpen options weren't appetizing.
Chapman got the job done there with just two pitches. Sending him back out for the eighth made sense too - see if the Cubs add on and then, either way, hand the big lead over to Justin Grimm, who had warmed up alongside Chapman, in the ninth.
That's where Maddon, as he has done so often during this postseason, absolutely lost his mind.
The Cubs indeed added on - Anthony Rizzo hit a 2-run homer to extend the lead to seven in the top of the ninth. And guess who Maddon sent out to the mound for the bottom of the frame?
Why, Joe, why?
"[We] just did not have enough time to get Stroppy warmed up after the two-run home run by Rizzo," Maddon told reporters after the game.
And that is a lie.
As many, many others pointed out in real-time, Maddon failed to get Pedro Strop - or anyone else - up in the bullpen immediately after the Rizzo homer. The 'pen was quiet for far too long - especially given that Maddon's plan had worked to perfection.
"That was part of the gig before the game to put him in a pertinent moment," Maddon said. "Then if we were able to sustain a good lead, then get him out on the back side, just like it ended up being."
Then why wasn't anyone warming up in the bullpen?
"They got caught with their pants down a little there," Jason Goff said on The Score this morning.
Chapman walked the first batter in the ninth and that's when Maddon summoned Strop, who apparently was a better option than Grimm at that juncture.
Strop's stinky performance, including a wild pitch, ensured we won't see him tonight and helped justify (again) Maddon's distrust at this point of almost the entire bullpen. Travis Wood was brought in to close it out.
And yet, this still seems nuts:
Maddon said Chapman would have finished the game if not for Rizzo's HR. Worried about a comeback— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) November 2, 2016
Why not just start him? He's thrown as many pitches this week as anyone in the rotation! (83 in four days, y'all.)
True, Strop couldn't get the job done, but is there really no one else down there to take care of the ninth? Grimm, Carl Edwards (Jr.), hell, John Lackey?
One person who was stoked to see Chapman in the game - and who would've loved to see Maddon ride him to the finish - was Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
"We've talked about this even before we started, was to make them use pitching even in a loss," Cleveland Manager Terry Francona said. "So we hung around enough, at least Chapman had to pitch. You never know. Maybe that helps us."
"What the Indians absolutely know will help them," Barry Svrluga writes for the Washington Post. "Miller, Shaw and Allen did not have to pitch. Each of them will have at least two days' rest. How important are they? Combined, they have a 0.95 ERA this postseason."
The Cubs better get to Corey Kluber early tonight and hang on to Kyle Hendricks for dear life.
Disrespecting 90 Con't
At least Chapman covered first this time, but he was slow to do so on a ground ball to Rizzo, and the result was in an ankle twist (or perhaps getting it stepped on at the bag by the Cleveland runner) as he barely got to the bag in time.
Jake The Snake
Jake Arrieta got another win in a 102-pitch performance. In 5 2/3 innings. Yeesh.
A lot of chatter about using Chapman again tonight in the middle or early innings if necessary, and then using Jon Lester as closer. You'd put him in with a one-run lead and a runner on in the bottom of the ninth? You'd keep him in after he puts a runner on with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth?
Again, I realize the bullpen options are few. But I might feel more comfortable using Lester before Chapman, not after.
If the Cubs win this, it has to be Chapman, right?
Tonight's Game 7 Matchup.
This is only the 3rd Game 7 of the live ball era in which both SP had 5+ bWAR (Saberhagen & Tudor in 1985, Clemens & Schilling in 2001).— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) November 2, 2016
Oh God no.
Actually, both teams go home either way tonight. And Cleveland is already home, so . . . Win and go home, Cubs!
Alternate headline: Sad, Aging Celebrity Has No Friends.
"One of these teams is gonna be so damned sad," Grant Bisbee writes for SBNation, in what might be the best baseball column of the year.
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