The Cubs are going to play in Game 7 of the World Series. What a time to be alive (unless you're a Cleveland Indians fan, in which case, our condolences).
But now the Cubs might not have the best version of their best reliever for the biggest game in franchise history.
Aroldis Chapman entered Game 6, up 7-2 in the seventh inning, and faced five Cleveland batters Tuesday night going into the ninth inning — this a day after throwing 42 pitches in the Cubs' Game 5 win.
The talk in the build-up to Game 7 will revolve around Chapman's effectiveness for Chicago if he pitches. The lefty said he'll be ready, Maddon says he expects to be able to use him in the contest, but we won't really know how good he can be we see him until Wednesday night.
Was it worth using him for Game 6 if he might be less than dominant in Game 7?
Here are four reasons why it was a good move and the one big reason why it shouldn't be questioned:
Tommy GilliganTommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
There is no tomorrow without a winning Game 6
We're talking about Game 7 of the World Series only because the Cubs won Game 6.
You had to let it all hang out Tuesday night, and Maddon, understanding his team and the situation they faced, wanted to use the best weapon available to him in what he deemed to be an important situation.
Overkill? Perhaps. But it got the kill.
Maddon couldn't manage for Game 7 in Game 6 — that's a surefire way to lose the game at hand.
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
There was leverage in the sitaution
All playoffs, we've correctly praised Indians manager Terry Francona for his bullpen management — Tito isn't sticking to some antiquated, rigid system of "this guy has the eighth." He's picked his bullpen arms based on the leverage of the situation.
It took Maddon a while to join Francona in handling his bullpen the same way, but he did it in Game 5 and it paid massive dividends for the Cubs, forcing a Game 6. (In many ways, this is a re-hash of the conversation from Sunday night.)
When Francisco Lindor came to the plate with two on and two outs, the win probability for the Indians was at 3.1 percent. That might seem laughably low, but that was an uptick, despite the five-run lead.
Lindor has been arguably the best player in this series, and had he driven in both runs — a real serious possibility — Chapman would be coming into the game anyway. Why not make sure that situation never happened and bring him in to win the game's critical moment?
Charles LeClaireCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Once he's in, you might as well use him
Chapman was fully warmed up, he was in the game — you don't cool him down after only a few pitches. The damage has been done, in many senses, so as long as he's on a pitch count — in theory preserving him for Game 7 — you might as well get some outs out of the arm. The difference between five and 10 pitches is nearly negligible and the difference between that and 20 pitches isn't that much more serious.
Now, after 20 or so pitches, you have problems — few relievers are built to handle that kind of stress on their arm.
David RichardDavid Richard-USA TODAY Sports
He threw only 20 pitches
But the Cubs did have Chapman on a pitch count, and he hit the magic number (or so the Cubs said) on the dot. Surely, Maddon would have preferred to have Chapman not throw pitches in the bottom of the ninth, but the Cubs had a five-run lead with two outs in the top of the frame.
That was a de-facto save situation, and while it's unknown if Chapman was going to finish the contest, even if he didn't, he could have made it shorter for the next guy. Anthony Rizzo's homer shouldn't have been a factor.
David RichardDavid Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Maddon has no trust in his other bullpen options
This is the big one.
The Cubs had to bring in Chapman to face Lindor — and then keep him in the game for the eighth inning — because the Cubs didn't have any other viable options in their bullpen right now.
It's clear Maddon has decided that the Cubs' trustworthy bullpen arms are Chapman and Mike Montgomery. Everyone else is way down the depth chart.
Chapman was available and was by far the most capable pitching option for Maddon in a situation that he deemed to have significant — closer-worthy — leverage.
The Cubs' pitching options expand significantly for Game 7, as it's all hands on deck with starting pitchers even getting into the fold — Jon Lester, John Lackey, even Jake Arrieta are available to throw pitches in Game 7.
But in Game 6 there was only one arm that Maddon trusted for that two-on, two-out spot— Chapman.
We don't know what would have happened if someone else was brought in when Chapman was, but if you want to gripe with Maddon, challenge his lack of trust in the other arms in his bullpen and his belief that the game was on the line — not that he brought in his best pitcher for that scenario, real or imagined.