With all position players used, Maddon improvises in Chicago's victory
By Cody Pace
CINCINNATI -- Tuesday's game between the Cubs and Reds at Great American Ball Park got weird.
While the Cubs pulled out the 7-2 win in the 15th inning, it seemed before the eighth inning that the Cubs were destined for a complete-game shutout from starter Jon Lester. But after two hits in the eighth, including a homer, Hector Rondon came on for a four-out save. Rondon blew the save, and the game went into extras.
By the 13th inning, both teams had used up their entire benches, with catchers Miguel Montero and Tucker Barnhart getting pinch-hit appearances. From there, the game featured three pitchers playing left field, a line-drive double play with the winning run in scoring position and the first grand slam in the 15th inning or later since 1996, the third since 1930.
"We were naked, we were so naked," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Here's the thing, you do stuff like that, when I went out to [put reliever Travis Wood in left field] originally, the infielders were kind of giggling, they kind of liked it. So when you get into a game like that that's really stressful, everybody's trying so hard, everybody wants to win. It's, in a perverse way, to lighten the mood a little bit and so they all kind of dug that."
If Reds fans of a certain age thought they had seen something like that before from a visiting club, they were right. The Mets in 1986 flip-flopped Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell between the mound and the outfield after a brawl led to ejections and the game also went extra innings.
In the 13th, the Reds looked like they were mounting a comeback win, putting two men on with one out and Joey Votto coming up. Without a bench player to use, Maddon decided to double switch anyway, bringing Wood in to play left field and Joel Peralta in to pitch. Peralta got a line drive from Votto, and, with Ivan De Jesus Jr. running on contact as the winning run, the inning ended on a double play.
"The soft line drive that [Ben] Zobrist was just tall enough," Maddon said. "That's the game right there by catching that line drive, that's the game. I don't blame their runner for going right there. He wanted to score the winning run."
In the 14th, the weirdness continued. After Spencer Patton retired the first batter, Maddon stepped out of the dugout, pointed to his left-handed pitcher in left field, and motioned him toward the mound. Patton was sent to left field while Wood induced a groundout, and then the two switched again, Patton coming back on to face right-handed Adam Duvall.
"[Maddon] did a wonderful job of managing a really tight ballgame," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He trusted his pitchers to come in there and defend and rotate back into the game and pitch. It was a really well-played game on both ends, well-managed game. Joe did a nice job in some unusual circumstances."
The Cubs finally secured a lead in the 15th on a Kris Bryant single, but that was too normal. So two batters later with the bases loaded, shortstop Javier Baez, who was 0-for-6 at that point in the game, turned a 3-2 game into a 7-2 game with his grand slam.
"I was just trying to have a good [at-bat]," Baez said. "I had the pitcher in front of me. They were looking for a double-play ball. He hit it pretty good to first and the only choice he had was to come to the plate and then I came up."
For good measure, Maddon finished the game by pulling Wood back from left field to pitch with reliever Pedro Strop moving to left field. He finished the game with 1 1/3 innings pitched, allowing one hit and striking out three.
"Especially the last out, the fly ball to Stropy would've been the fitting conclusion," Maddon said. "It was so much going on, you have to think about so many things in the moment right there. Travis made everything possible. His versatility, the fact that he might've had his best stuff all year, he was throwing 93 [mph] a lot with good carry, strike-throwing, very comfortable out there. What can I say? It was the Wood show."
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.