CHICAGO – Indians managing savant Terry Francona had been dominating this World Series with a near-perfect first four games of perfect planning and plotting. But now it was Joe Maddon’s turn to do his thing.
And Maddon, who had seemed to recede into the background while the Cubs struggled at the plate in games 1 through 4, pulled one out of his back of tricks. We all know the 100-mph-throwing Aroldis Chapman likes his innings clean, and he likes his innings one at a time. But Maddon, with perhaps equal parts inspiration and desperation, summoned Chapman with one on and one out in the seventh inning.
Chapman had eight outs to get, and the Indians, who don’t scare ever, weren’t going to make it easy on him.
But Chapman did it. He got his eight outs, four via strikeout. And the Cubs lived to see another day, with the 3-2 Cubs victory — not to mention the season — he saved. Game 6 is Tuesday in Cleveland.
“I talked to Chapman before the game, and he was aware of being ready in the seventh inning,” Maddon said after the game.
To get that many outs late, Maddon decided, in Maddon speak, was “pretty cool.”
Maddon, one of the better managers in the game, finally had his moment in the sun on this 40-degree game. Before Game 5, the Indians had controlled the action with their superb array of breaking pitches and solid play, and Francona had reminded us he is very likely the best in the game at what he does.
Maddon’s great season was built on some great slogans (“Embrace the Target), and a fantastic attitude that fit his young team. But nothing was doing through four games, and Maddon had to wait his turn.
“He stopped doing his thing because they were playing from behind,” one N.L. scout said. “They were a dead team.”
Not sure about that, but the young Cubs obviously needed some adjustments, and Cubs veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross suggested they need to stop pressing, and think about a little small ball following the Game 4 defeat that put them in a 3-to-1 hole.
Now they had to do their thing. After Kris Bryant’s home run off Trevor Bauer tied the score at 1 in the fourth the Cubs pushed across two runs, thanks to a swinging bunt, a regular bunt and a sacrifice fly by Ross himself, small ball was alive again. Ross had a big game in what may be the last game of his career, between his pitch calling, his pitch framing and the sac fly.
Ross was terrific.
And the Cubs kids were all right again.
But Maddon still needed to take his chance when the time came. And that meant Chapman, earlier than early.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
“That was a big ask, and he answered, kind of like Andrew (Miller has) done,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Francona answered a question about whether he was surprised to see Chapman so early by saying he never manages the other way, but pointing out, “Nobody’s ever running to the bat rack when Chapman’s coming into the game.”
In this postseason, the best managers have called upon their best relievers before the ninth inning (well, most of them). The Dodgers’ Dave Roberts did it with Kenley Jansen a few times. And Francona did it with the incomparable Andrew Miller every time.
Maddon isn’t a copycat. In reality, he just seems to have lost faith in usual set-up men Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop (either that, or they’ve run out of gas), and he needed to make sure they’d get back to Cleveland.
In any case, the reed-thin rookie Carl Edwards Jr. seems to be the primary set-up man. So after Maddon pulled postseason stalwart Jon Lester after a solid six, he employed Edwards. But only for an out.
And then in came Chapman, who was acquired for prime prospect Gleyber Torres and three others for just such an occasion.
Chapman is hard to hit. But he can be an adventure. He isn’t as good with men on base. He tends to throw some wild ones. And he doesn’t always field his position perfectly.
But he was good enough this time. He forgot to cover first base on what became a Rajai Davis hit. He hit a batter (that had to hurt!). But he endured.
And thus, so did the Cubs.
Notes on a scorecard from around the World Series & MLB …
— Kris Bryant, probable NL MVP, had a big game, with the home run that tied the score and a stolen base later. He is the first Cubs player to have a homer and stolen base in the same World Series Game.
— The talk before the game was about how the young Cubs were letting the pressure get to them. Not so for Indians star Francisco Lindor, who is 22 and playing carefree, great baseball. Alex Rodriguez says Lindor reminds him of Roberto Alomar, who was the same way as a kid helping the Blue Jays to two early titles. Rajai Davis remarked that Lindor is a young star without an ego, one who takes direction very well.
— “At some point, you have to start giving the Indians credit,” one rival GM said. “They steamrolled the Red Sox. They steamrolled the Blue Jays. And so far they’ve (outplayed) the Cubs.” No, time for credit indeed.
— Trevor Bauer was bothered by the bloody finger up until a couple days ago, when he declared while throwing a bullpen session to pitching coach Mickey Callaway that he was finally feeling OK. That may have been the moment where they decided to go with Bauer in Game 5 (though it seems they didn’t think the Cubs were a good matchup for Ryan Merritt for unknown reasons). Bauer did fair; he held the Cubs scoreless through the first three but allowed three runs in the fourth.
— For all the talk about starting pitching and rotation depth, bullpens have been kings in recent postseasons. The Royals started the trend, and the Indians are perfecting it. The pen of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero have “stepped it up a notch,” Rajai Davis noted.
— Davis noted that his family was skeptical of his choice to come to the Indians. But they are all applauding that choice now.
— Jason Kipnis, from north suburban Northbrook, says his friends are rooting for the Cubs but also him. So after Game 4, they were “half happy,” says Kipnis, who had three big hits in the Indians’ win.
— The low-key Indians top front office duo of Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff, for the first time, had a Cleveland eatery recognize them and pick up the tab following the Game 1 win. Low key maybe, but man are they ever smart.
The Indians clubhouse follows suit.
“It’ a good, light atmosphere,” Rajai Davis noted.
— Reminder: The Indians were 28th in home attendance this year. That’s out of 30 teams.
— Jim Thome was sitting by the Indians dugout. Thome, a Peoria, Ill. product with Chicago ties, has no split allegiances.
“I grew up a Cubs fan. But my heart’s with the Indians.”
Thome was a star (one of many) on the ’95 and ’97 Indians teams that made it to the World Series and lost, allowing the drought to reach 68 years.
(Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
— Josh Tomlin, Game 6 starter for the Indians, seems to be the consensus most popular player in there, and I can see why. What a nice young man he is. Tomlin somehow has managed to pitch great in the postseason after his father Jerry suffered an ailment that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Josh says they are going home to Whitehouse, Texas (outside Tyler) to help remodel the house to allow his father to get around before returning to Cleveland.
— Willson Contreras is a great talent, but one scout said he “looks like a novice” catching. The big problem, the scout said, is that he doesn’t center balls while catching them, leading to him yanking them out of the strike. That could explain some rough umpiring outings here.
— An NL scout says Jason Heyward needs to find the “shortest bat with the biggest head” because his swing is too long. The scout also said, “He needs to stop trying to be Darryl Strawberry. He’ll never be Darryl Strawberry.”
— Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey, who’s credited for being a big part of this championship, will soon get to work as chief baseball officer of the Twins, where he has a ton of work to do. The Twins need a lot of help, including the player development area. Their top prospects who came up to the big leagues haven’t looked ready in recent years. It was a rough year there. Even their top player, Brian Dozier, finished 1-for-34.
— Word going around now is that the Blue Jays want to bring back Edwin Encarnacion but seem ready to let Jose Bautista leave. The perceived stance on Bautista seems to be something of a switch, as a year ago he was seen as the preferred player of the two (though they always had interest in Encarnacion). Both will receive qualifying offers, and both are expected to decline.
— While the Jays are suggesting they are giving some thought to giving a qualifying offer to Michael Saunders, one rival puts that at: “no chance.” His suspect second half probably will indeed end that talk.
— A lot of eyes are on the White Sox, who have never really truly rebuilt but would seem to be a prime candidate for it, with some interesting pieces.
Of course, aces Chris Sale and Jose Quintana would draw any team interested in pitching (in other words, all 30 teams). But they also have Todd Frazier, who has a year to go before free agency. Sale, of course, would be the big one. It was reported in this space that the price was as many as five young players. One rival GM, though a fan of Sale (who isn’t?), opined, “I wouldn’t bet that price would be met.”
— Justin Turner’s free-agent case was helped by his big year, and probably also Martin Prado’s early $40 million, three-year deal with the Marlins, as Prado was the other starting quality third baseman headed for the market.
— A few teams are showing interest in Carlos Ruiz. The Dodgers could be ready to give the backup job to Austin Barnes, but they could still pick up Ruiz’s $4.25 million option, and think about trading him. Ruiz is popular as he’s great in the clubhouse, a good game caller and can still swing the bat.
(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire)
— The Dodgers noticed that Chase Utley wore down, but they like him on the team. So they could still consider a return for him. Though the presence of Howie Kendrick makes that less than a necessity.
— Don Wakamatsu will indeed interview with the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Royals’ bench coach didn’t get a fair shake with the Mariners. He actually had a similar experience as Chip Hale in Arizona, a good first year followed by a rough second one. His second year was hampered by the end of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey’s career. It’s never easy to ease out a legend.
— The Red Sox have lost a lot of people, with Mike Hazen, Amiel Sawdaye, mental skills coach, doctor Dan Dyrek, numbers guy Tom Tippett, Steve Sanders and Mike Murav going. They don’t seem too worried, though.
— Seems like the BoSox are heading toward picking up Clay Buchholz’s $13.5 million option.
— The assumption is the Mets will pick up Jay Bruce’s $13 million option.
— The Hall of Fame Veterans Committee should be quite generous with its picks when it meets to consider five worthy execs/managers plus five players from the 1988-present era (Harold Baines, Will Clark, Mark McGwire, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner, Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson and John Schuerholz).
The writers were probably too tough in voting when you consider there are twice as many Hall of Famers who debuted before 1950 as debuted after 1950 in the Hall of Fame (143 to 74) even though there are twice as many players who played the required 10 years who debuted after 1950 as compared to before 1950 (2,186 to 1,103). So it’s been four times as hard to make the Hall of Fame in the last 66 years. Which isn’t right.
— Next year, players who could be on the Veterans Committee ballot include Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Dave Concepcion and Steve Garvey, among others. Morris, who should be in (in my opinion), says “I’m at peace.”
Tom Gage of the Detroit News did research saying that of all pitchers, ranking their top 14 seasons, Morris ranked sixth.
Morris seems more interested in Trammell.
“I’d never be half of what I was without Tram,” Morris said. (I switched to vote yes on Trammell the last few years after voting no originally).
The one non-Tiger Morris can’t believe didn’t get more support is Lee Smith. (I have never voted for Smith, though believe now we should have voted more in.)
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