Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is regarded as one of the more progressive thinkers when compared to his contemporaries. But his decision to not call on Wade Davis in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series was curious, and ultimately costly.
Brian Duensing began the ninth, his second inning in relief, by walking Yasiel Puig on four pitches. Duensing then retired the next two batters faced. With Chris Taylor due up, Maddon called on John Lackey.
He walked Taylor and then surrendered a three-run, walk-off home run to Justin Turner. “I really just needed him for the save tonight. He had limited pitches,” said Maddon of Davis.
“It was one inning only, and in these circumstances you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That’s it.”
Maddon later backpedaled some on his remark that Davis was exclusively being held until a potential save opportunity. “You have to understand when you have a guy like that coming off the performance that he had, to warm him up and not use him is equally as bad,” Maddon explained.
“Warm him up, not put him in the game, and then ask him to pitch maybe two innings later, that’s really not good for him.”
Although the Cubs bullpen has been a weak point of the team, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop and even Duensing had encouraging showings. Using Lackey was with the intention to provide length in the event the game went into extra innings.
“Once that walk occurred, all bets were off against Turner. Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out. I liked [Lackey] against [Taylor],” Maddon said.
“I’m just betting on his experience right there as much as anything. I know that he went out there and tried to make the pitches that he wanted to make. I know that the crowd would not affect him, and it didn’t.”
On Monday, Maddon doubled down on his intention to only call on Davis in a save situation. “When a guy’s throwing too much, it’s very important to not dry hump him, as the saying goes,” Maddon said.
Davis threw 44 pitches in 2.1 innings to earn a save in Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Oct. 12.