ST. LOUIS — Cubs manager Joe Maddon lost it after Kyle Hendricks lost the no-hitter, feeling like umpire Joe West tried to upstage his pitcher in the ninth inning on Monday night at Busch Stadium.
Maddon didn’t want to become a distraction after getting ejected from a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that shrunk his team’s magic number to clinch the National League Central to three — and a spectacular performance that made Hendricks look like a potential Cy Young Award winner.
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But on the TV replay it sure sounded like Maddon ended his nose-to-nose argument with West by saying: “F--- you!” And the normally chatty manager didn’t want to hear another follow-up question about whether “Cowboy Joe” should have had a better feel for the moment.
“Come on,” Maddon said during his postgame news conference. “Just write it. Just write it. Just write it. You guys saw it. You know what happened. I don’t need to get into any more trouble. Just write it.”
The Cubs already had closer Aroldis Chapman warming up in the bullpen when Jeremy Hazelbaker drilled an 0-2 changeup over the right-field fence for a leadoff homer that ended Hendricks’ no-hit bid.
“There was a misinterpretation there,” Maddon said. “We needed a little bit more time to get the pitcher ready based on the situation. That’s all. And I needed the catcher to go out to the mound. That’s all. That’s it. We were denied. And I didn’t like that, so I made my stand.
“I truly believe we were proper in that. It’s not about that moment. It’s about Kyle. This was Kyle’s night.”
The apparent issue involved veteran catcher Miguel Montero immediately reacting to the Hazelbaker homer by checking in on Hendricks — and then getting conflicting signals from the home-plate umpire.
“After I went to the mound and came back, (West) tapped me on the shoulder and told me to go out (there),” Montero said. “So I’m walking out to the (mound). And then he’s like: ‘Hey, if you go out there, I’m going to count it as a visit.’
“I’m like: ‘OK, what’s going on?’ Is that possible? I don’t even know if that rule exists. It doesn’t matter, because (Kyle’s) coming out of the game already. That’s when (Maddon) came out. And after that, I’m not responsible for what happened out there.”
So Hendricks didn’t get the Hollywood ending, and this isn’t how Maddon would ever script taking the ball from a pitcher who’s becoming a bigger and bigger story for the best team in baseball.
“By that time, I’m a little bit out of breath, and I’m not even supposed to go out there, because I had been kicked out already,” Maddon said. “But that’s not going to stop me from walking out there. It was inappropriate what had happened, so I was not going to be very honorable at that particular moment. It was inappropriate.”
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The unflappable Hendricks (15-7, 2.03 ERA) stayed in character and always understands the method to Maddon’s madness.
“We were joking on the mound,” Hendricks said. “I knew he was trying to get some time to get Chapman up — (that’s just) Joe and his ways. We were laughing a little bit about it on the mound — the only way you can really relieve that situation after the homer.”