ST. LOUIS – You’re going to start second-guessing Joe Maddon now?
The Cubs manager guided this team through the toughest division in baseball and into this National League division series, seeing a 24-game improvement from the year before. Maddon isn’t going to change for the St. Louis Cardinals or get sentimental at playoff time.
So wild-card hero Kyle Schwarber — who had two hits and a walk in Friday’s 4-0 loss — didn’t see his name in Saturday’s Game 2 lineup against St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia. Jorge Soler (right) and Austin Jackson (left) started in the corner outfield spots at Busch Stadium, a different look for a deep team that values versatility.
Soler wound up hitting a double and a two-run homer off Garcia and walking twice in a 6-3 win the Cubs absolutely had to have in this best-of-five matchup. Jackson – who has a reputation for being a solid defender – also stole a base and scored a run during that pivotal second inning.
“The beauty of our lineup is that you can insert George, who hasn’t played a whole lot, and he goes deep,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s just the strength of our lineup. We got a lot of depth and Joe picks the right guys at the right time.”
Sitting Schwarber — who blasted 16 homers in 69 regular-season games but hit only .143 against left-handers — would be an easy decision for a manager who strongly believes in the mix-and-match philosophy.
“It’s not difficult, honestly, for me,” Maddon said. “His body of work this year against lefties in general has not been very good. I believe he’s going to be better in the future with that.
“But why have these other guys on the roster if you’re not going to utilize them?”
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The Cubs didn’t have a huge mental database against Garcia, who hadn’t pitched in the rivalry since April 2012 but did overcome a series of injuries to get back into a playoff rotation for a 100-win team. The Cardinals said Garcia left the game with a stomach virus after giving up five unearned runs in two innings.
Against Garcia, left-handed hitters had performed relatively better than right-handers (.630/.557 OPS) this season. But Maddon also wanted to get Soler’s big bat involved and respected Jackson’s postseason experience with the Detroit Tigers (35 playoff games between 2011 and 2013).
“They’re here for a specific purpose,” Maddon said. “And this is the purpose — to play against this guy today. Now this guy can read reverse if you look at it in a body of work. But I’ve never seen (Garcia with my own) eyeballs.
“I’ve never actually watched him play, so I’m relying on even more information. And a lot of it indicates that he’s trending back towards being more conventional. So that’s why we went with the righties today.”