CHICAGO — While social media lit up with condemnation after the Cubs’ Jorge Soler took his time getting out of the batter’s box on his triple in Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Indians, manager Joe Maddon didn’t have an issue with it.
“I think I would have been disappointed had he only gotten to second base,” Maddon said before Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night. “I think all he could have done was get to third base.”
With two outs in the seventh inning and the Cubs trailing 1-0, Soler lifted a ball down the rightfield line that appeared to be headed for the stands, but the strong right-to-left wind that blew all night caused the ball to drift back into play. There is little foul territory in the rightfield corner, and Indians rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, near the brick wall, jumped and misplayed it.
Soler initially came out of the box in a slow jog and eventually turned it up when it looked as if his drive might land fair. Given that the ball didn’t bounce all that far away from Chisenhall, it seems a stretch to say Soler — who easily made it to third — would have been able to stretch it into an inside-the-park homer even if he had busted it out of the box on contact.
“I heard about the discussion. It kind of surprised me a little bit,” Maddon said. “When I saw the replay, and I thought it happened, and it happens to a hitter sometimes, you hit the ball and you don’t know where it is. Once you find out where it is, truthfully, from the dugout it looked like it was going to be in the stands and the wind blew it back. Not any excuses, but the way the play eventually turned out, I truly believe the best he could have done is achieved third base under any circumstances.”
With Games 3, 4 and 5 in the National League park and the DH not being used, Indians manager Terry Francona has had to make some lineup adjustments.
On Friday night, he started Carlos Santana in leftfield — Santana had played all of four career innings there, all in 2012 — and on Saturday night, Santana was at first base. Which meant Mike Napoli, a clubhouse leader who tied Santana for the team lead with 34 homers this season, was on the bench.
“I hated like crazy not playing Napoli. I physically hate it,” Francona said. “But Nap’s going to play [Sunday night] against the lefty and we may put Santana back in the outfield [Sunday] again. We’ll see. I just thought tonight it would serve us better even having Nap out of the lineup to have a defense in there and with Rajai [Davis] playing [leftfield].”