Chicago Cubs: Maddon’s decision to pull Lester pays off in the end

The Chicago Cubs found themselves in another intense battle with the Cleveland Indians. With the North Siders facing elimination in Game 5, a little offense and heavy arms played key roles. But one risky move stood out above all.

Long before the Chicago Cubs clinched the National League Central, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer went shopping. Last year, they landed reliever Fernando Rodney and outfielder Austin Jackson from the Seattle Mariners ahead of the trade deadline.

This time around, the front office went out and acquired Mike Montgomery from Seattle and flamethrower, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman was a huge acquisition for the Chicago Cubs that made headlines across the league.

Meanwhile, Andrew Miller found a new home with the Cleveland Indians. The two former teammates are currently battling it out in the World Series and have pitched a ton of innings.

For Miller, cruising through multiple frames at a time has been a breeze in his career. Having done so with the Boston Red Sox and now Cleveland, he’s comfortable in tight situations.

Chapman, on the other hand, hasn’t been asked to do it a whole lot in his career. That was until he was picked up by the Cubs. Skipper Joe Maddon has used him in six-plus out situations a few times this October and it hasn’t worked all that well.

Maddon Gambles

When Chapman enters the game with a fresh plate, the opposing team has no chance at putting together a rally. But if Chapman was called upon with runners already on board, there was a good chance that one or two would score with him on the mound.

Let’s flash back to San Francisco where he gave up two hits to the Giants. First one being a RBI triple off the bat of Conor Gillaspie which gave the Giants a one-run lead. Brandon Crawford followed that up with a single of his own, making it a two-run game.

San Francisco went on to winning that game by the final score of 6-5 on a walk-off double from Joe Panik. Then you have the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yes, Chicago had themselves a comfortable lead and Maddon made the decision to bring Chapman in during the ninth. Reason behind that was because Aroldis hadn’t thrown in awhile so he didn’t want him to go to waste.

Aroldis was charged with two earned runs on as many hits and a walk that night. Not something you should be comfortable with considering the fact that this was your closer on the mound.

Worth The Risk

Last night, things worked out perfectly minus a few hiccups. Young right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. gave up a hit and was removed for Chapman in the seventh. Aroldis came in and shut down the Indians, recording a handful of strikeouts.

At the time, this move left some of us scratching our heads. Removing both David Ross and Jon Lester from the game was a huge risk and was sure to backfire on Maddon if it hadn’t gone according to plan.

Chapman’s only issue on the night was not running to first base following Anthony Rizzo‘s diving stab on a ball hit down the right field line. He redeemed himself by shutting down Cleveland in the ninth.

Is momentum on Chicago’s side? Well, you would have to think so. But in order for the Chicago Cubs to force a Game 7 against Kluber, they need to step it up, again. You can’t stress that enough being one loss away from elimination.

Scoring runs when it counts needs to be the main priority while keeping the pressure off right-hander Jake Arrieta. Tuesday night’s contest is not going to be easy considering how well Josh Tomlin pitched in his Game 3 start on Friday.

He was getting ahead in the count and making it look easy against the Cubs team who needed that win, badly. Cleveland is expected to be rocking with excited fans waiting for their team to make history.

It isn’t going to be easy but it’s not impossible. Having Kyle Schwarber in the lineup is a huge plus for this offense. Wake me up tomorrow evening.

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