CLEVELAND — Joe Maddon, his team fresh off a 9-3 victory in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night, nonetheless found himself in the hot seat.
The reason was simple enough.
With his team comfortably ahead 7-2 in the seventh inning, the Cubs manager went to closer Aroldis Chapman, who had thrown a career-high 2 2⁄3 innings to close out Game 5, with two runners on. Though Francisco Lindor, 8-for-19 the first five games of the series, was at the plate, the game didn’t seem to be in the balance, though Maddon clearly felt differently.
Lindor grounded into a 3-1 forceout and Maddon sent him back out for the eighth and then to start the ninth.
“For me, the game could have been lost right there [in the seventh], and he’s by far our most dynamic relief pitcher,” Maddon said. “I talked to him before the game once again, he was aware of the scenario. So he went out there and he was outstanding again.”
The situations were different, however. In Game 5, Maddon called on Chapman in the seventh inning to protect a one-run lead. Tuesday night, the Cubs had a five-run lead and, after Anthony Rizzo’s two-run homer in the ninth, a seven-run cushion, yet Chapman still started the bottom half (he walked Brandon Guyer and was replaced by Pedro Strop).
Maddon, however, said because Chapman threw just 20 pitches, he doesn’t feel he put into jeopardy the reliever’s availability for Game 7.
Besides, the manager pointed out several times, if the middle of the Indians order wasn’t dealt with, there might not have been a seventh game.
“Seventh inning there . . . the middle of the batting order was coming up — Lindor, [Mike] Napoli, [Jose] Ramirez possibly, all that stuff, so I thought the game could have been lost right there if we did not take care of it properly,” Maddon said. “If you don’t get through that, there is no tomorrow.”