Cubs

Joe Maddon explains why Wade Davis didn't pitch in that series-altering 9th inning of Game 2

Joe Maddon explains why Wade Davis didn't pitch in that series-altering 9th inning of Game 2

If it wasn't confirmed before, it is now: Joe Maddon's honeymoon period in Wrigleyville really is over.

The Cubs bullpen held serve with the lights-out Dodgers bullpen for a while, but at the end, all Maddon could do was watch his team lose with Wade Davis sitting in the bullpen, unused, in the ninth inning.

The reigning World Series-winning manager called on John Lackey with two outs in the ninth inning in a tie game against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS. It was the first time Lackey had ever pitched in back-to-back games in his entire 15-year career.

If you're reading this and didn't just wake up from a coma, you already know what happened: Lackey walked Chris Taylor, then served up a game-winning homer to Justin "Tormund" Turner.

Meanwhile, the Cubs' lone All-Star was sitting in the bullpen watching this all go down. 

Why didn't Maddon go to Davis - his best reliever - in the biggest spot in the game?

"'Cause I really just needed him for the save tonight; we needed him for the save tonight," Maddon said. "He had limited pitches, was one inning only. 

"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."

The "circumstances" are the fact Davis gave everything he had to even get the Cubs to this point, getting seven outs in Game 5 of the NLDS Thursday night/Friday morning and throwing 44 pitches. It was his longest outing - both by pitches and outs - since 2013 when he was working as a starting pitcher.

Davis had multiple forearm issues last season and he looked weary down the stretch this year at times as Maddon leaned on him hard during a tight pennant race with the rest of the bullpen struggling to find consistency.

Maddon went in depth later in Sunday's postgame press conference, but obviously the save part will drive Cubs fans mad. You can't get a save if you can't get past that bottom of the ninth inning and if you're gonna go down, might as well go down with your best pitchers on the mound against the other team's best hitters.

"I don't necessarily hold off for the save," Maddon said. "In the situation tonight, coming off of his last performance; the other thing you have to consider: understand, when you have a guy like that coming off the performance that he had, to warm him up and to not use him is equally as bad. 

"To warm him up not put him in the game and then ask him to pitch maybe 2 innings later, that's really not good form. So today/tonight, I really was waiting for the opportunity to grab a lead and then throw him out there. That's really what it was all about. 

"There was no way he was pitching more than one [inning], and that was pretty much it."

Maddon said he liked Lackey against the first guy - Taylor - and was going to have Lackey pitch the next inning too, if it got that far. Maddon pointed out that nobody is a good matchup against Turner, not even Davis, which is true.

But Maddon also isn't the only one to blame for the Cubs' 2-0 hole in the NLCS.

Maddon rightly pointed to the hapless offense - "we've gotta score more than one run" - that looks completely out of sorts this postseason. 

They scored nine runs in Game 5 in Washington, but most of those came off outs and Nationals mistakes. In the other six postseason games, the Cubs have scored a grand total of 11 runs.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”