Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended his removal of starter Jon Lester after six innings and 77 pitches in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
But Maddon said Sunday he regrets putting closer Aroldis Chapman in some tight spots – particularly throwing him into the fire in the eighth inning with no outs and runners on base.
That situation surfaced Saturday for the second time last week. Chapman allowed the tying runs to score on a two-out single by Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers after inheriting a bases-loaded, no-outs situation and striking out Kyle Seager and Yasiel Puig.
“I need to put him in a better spot when it comes down to it,” Maddon said.
Or maybe the other relievers need to do a better job of keeping the bases empty so Chapman is not summoned before the ninth with runners on base.
In the eighth inning of a 6-5 loss against the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey reached safely against Travis Wood and Hector Rondon, prompting Maddon to summon Chapman to protect a one-run lead with no outs, but Conor Gillaspie hit a game-winning triple.
In the eighth inning of Saturday’s wild victory, Mike Montgomery and Pedro Strop failed to retire the first three batters. Maddon targeted Chapman to face the left-handed-hitting Seager, but he didn’t envision bringing him with the bases loaded and no outs.
“I put him in an impossible situation,” said Maddon, who was mindful he already used four relievers before Chapman’s entry and the threat of extra innings. “But there was no other person to put in that situation.”
Montero madness: Maddon chuckled after hearing Game 1 hero Miguel Montero wonder as recently as two months ago whether he would make the Cubs postseason roster after losing much of his playing time to rookie Willson Contreras and no longer being paired with Jake Arrieta.
“It’s incredible what goes through players’ minds at different times when things aren’t going well,” Maddon said.
With the Cubs running away with a playoff berth, Maddon said he merely wanted to take a look at how Contreras worked with Arrieta.
“It’s more of an information-gathering experience as opposed to lack of confidence in him,” Maddon said. “You try to pair guys up when it’s less tension-filled, that’s a good thing. That was all about trying to familiarize everyone with everyone else. It wasn’t a lack of confidence in him.”
Montero is scheduled to start Tuesday with Arrieta on the mound against left-hander Rich Hill.