Joe Maddon laughed off the way the Washington Nationals responded to the Bryce Harper treatment, from pitcher Tanner Roark saying the Cubs played “scared baseball” to manager Dusty Baker comparing those six walks to “Hack-a-Shaq.”
“I love it,” Maddon said before rain postponed Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres, setting up a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “It’s really funny. There’s nothing I can say about that. The best way I can put it: I did not do anything to them.”
The Cubs manager loves playing mind games, sending messages through the media and pushing opponents’ buttons. But this sounded more like an indirect criticism, Maddon subtly shifting blame to the lineup Baker constructed for Sunday’s 13-inning game, which saw Ryan Zimmerman, Washington’s cleanup hitter, leave 14 men on base as the Cubs pieced together a 4-3 victory.
“There’s nothing to really react to,” Maddon said. “Of course, if you’re a Cub fan, you love it. If you’re not, you don’t necessarily. It was just a strategy of the game based on how they built their group. That’s all it came down to.
“There’s nothing that I did. We had to react to the moment. We try to pick our best spots based on our abilities versus theirs. That’s how it played out. It happens every day. It just happened more often in yesterday’s game.”
The Cubs walked Harper 13 times during their four-game sweep of the Nationals, a playoff-caliber team they could face again in October. That’s the most walks a player has accumulated during a four-game series since 1913, according to STATS, which only has research dating back to that year.
“You try to manage the game accordingly,” catcher David Ross said. “I know a lot’s been made of it. That wasn’t our plan walking in: ‘Don’t let this guy beat us.’ They have a really good, deep lineup. And the lineup shook out to where they had guys on base in key situations, in game-winning situations.
“(But) we’re not going to let him beat us late. And finding the right matchup is what Joe’s looking for.”
Harper set a modern major-league record (since 1900) on Sunday for the most plate appearances without an at-bat in a single game (six walks and a hit by pitch), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. STATS also reported that the National League’s reigning MVP is the first hitter in at least 40 years to receive two intentional walks in extra innings with first base and second base occupied each time.
“Jake (Arrieta) wasn’t trying to walk him,” Ross said. “He just didn’t have his command that he normally has. It’s not a matter of: ‘We’re not going to pitch to this guy.’ We’re going to set ourselves up to manage the game accordingly for us to win the game.
“That’s all it is. He’s a great player and very talented. At the end of the day, you got to pitch around the guys that may beat you when the game is on the line. The goal is to win the game, however we have to do that.”