Let me preface this by saying- In Joe we trust- however, he has made some questionable decisions this postseason that have already cost the Cubs one game in the NLDS, and almost cost them big last night in game 1.
Now, it’s hard to call a game 1 a must win, but with the Cub’s history that is exactly what it was last night; a must win. It had been 13 years since the Cubs had won an NLCS game, starting with Bartman and including the sweep at the hands of the Mets last season, and with Kershaw looming for game 2 followed by a 3 game trip to LA, it was very important that the Cubs won that game last night. And that is exactly what they did, thanks to some late-game heroics from the unlikely hero in Miguel Montero.
Before that, though, there were some interesting decisions made by Joe Maddon. First, he pulled Jon Lester in the bottom of the 6th in favor of sending Jorge Soler to the plate with runners on and 2 outs. Now, he got bashed pretty hard for this move last night, but I actually completely understand it. Lester was only at 77 pitches, but he was getting hit really hard the last 2 innings, the ball was just going straight to our guys. Given more time and with the wind blowing out (which we knew from Joe Buck saying it 900 times during the broadcast), I don’t think that 3-1 lead was going to hold. So I understand pulling him there. What I don’t understand is all of the decisions that followed it.
In the 7th and 8th innings, Joe used Travis Wood, Carl Edwards Jr, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, and finally Aroldis Chapman. He is drastically overthinking the match-ups and trying way too hard to have lefty vs lefty and righty vs righty on every single batter. This wasn’t done in the regular season, but he is trying so damn hard to do it every relief inning this post season, and it was this very thing that cost the Cubs in game 3 against the Giants.
When you have 2 great set up guys who have a lot of experience and success in high-leverage situations, you need to use them as such. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon were both great this season, Strop in particular, so I just don’t understand why Maddon is so hard for the match ups.
Strop had a career high K/9 rate this season to go along with a career low in BB/9. He had been dominant when healthy this season, and his splits are actually a little BETTER against lefty pitchers. Opposing lefties hit just .140 against him, while righties hit just .171. Maddon needs to not over think it. Just use Strop in the 7th, don’t worry about the match ups.
Rondon has had a bit of a down season, especially since being moved out of the closer role after the Cubs acquired Chapman at the deadline, but there is no doubt in my mind he would have handled the 8th no problem. Rondon, much like Strop, had a career high in K/9 and a career low in BB/9. In addition to that, opposing hitters hit just .221 off of him. If Rondon pitches the 8th, then you have Chapman for the 9th, and you get out of it without having used all of those pitchers.
Also, Wood and Montgomery don’t have great splits against lefties (3rd and 4th on the staff behind Grimm and Strop), as they are former starters. It just doesn’t make sense to make all of these moves once you get to the postseason. Go with what got you there. Strop 7th, Rondon 8th, and Chapman 9th is a great bullpen and very difficult to hit. I think Maddon is a little too worried about match-ups and just needs to go with our 3 best relievers in those 3 innings.
The Cubs try to take a 2-0 lead tonight against Clayton Kershaw on very short rest with Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks on the mound. The game is at 7:00 on FS1.
MONSTER grand slam from a pinch-hitting Miguel Montero:
Also, Javy “The Jet” Baez stole home: