The biggest talking point following the Cubs' 9-8 loss to the Padres Tuesday is why Joe Maddon stuck with reliever Steve Cishek in the 10th inning.
Cishek entered the game in the 10th with the score knotted at 8-all. The Padres 6, 7 and 8 hitters were due up, making the appearance less strenuous than facing the top of their order. Considering how Cishek is one of the more reliable relievers on the Cubs, the matchup appeared to favor the visitors.
Although the inning got off to a solid start for Cishek – Ty France hit a ground ball to Anthony Rizzo that resulted in a 3-1 putout – things went downhill from there. Cishek allowed a ground ball single to Luis Urias before walking three straight Padres – Austin Hedges, Travis Jankowski and Manuel Margot (the latter on four pitches) – to secure a 9-8 walk-off victory for San Diego.
So, after Cishek walked Hedges and Jankowski, why did Maddon stick with the sidearmer rather than make a call to the bullpen? The answer is simple: Cishek was the Cubs' best bet at getting the game into the 11th inning.
Even with expanded rosters giving the Cubs 13 relievers in the bullpen, the group was stretched thin on Tuesday. Here are the statuses of those pitchers during the 10th inning:
-Tyler Chatwood: Unavailable (pitched innings 4-6)
-Brandon Kintzler: Unavailable (faced four batters in the 7th inning before exiting)
-Kyle Ryan: Unavailable (faced two batters in the 7th inning before exiting)
-David Phelps: Unavailable (faced two batters in the 7th inning before exiting)
-Rowan Wick: Unavailable (pitched 8th and 9th innings, allowing just one baserunner before exiting)
Perhaps one can argue that Maddon didn't have to use three pitchers in the seventh inning. However, Kintzler allowed three hits (granted, two on groundballs) and Ryan entered to face the left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer, whom he retired.
Ryan then walked Wil Myers on five pitches, and with the right-handed hitting Ty France due up, Phelps gave the Cubs a righty-righty matchup. Ryan has a 4.02 ERA vs. righties compared to 1.57 vs. lefties, hence Maddon going to Phelps in this spot.
After Wick's two shutout innings, the Cubs had Brad Wieck, Alec Mills, James Norwood, Derek Holland, Pedro Strop, Danny Hultzen, Duane Underwood Jr. and Cishek left in the bullpen. Wieck, Mills, Norwood and Holland pitched Monday, though outside of Wieck (who pitched a third of an inning), they each pitched just one frame.
Wieck was warming up in the bullpen in the 10th, but Margot (.365/.460/.494 slash line in 85 at-bats) excels against left-handed pitching. Therefore, the Cubs weren't going to insert Wieck, Holland or Hultzen – all lefties – to face Margot, even after Cishek walked two-straight batters. The same can likely be said about Mills and Norwood, since they pitched the day before, meaning the Cubs were left with Strop, Underwood and Cishek.
Underwood has shown flashes in limited big league action this season, but not enough for him to be considered more reliable than Strop or Cishek. Strop hasn't allowed a run in three-straight appearances (2 1/3 innings), but with how he's struggled this season, it wouldn't have made sense for him to come in for Cishek.
So, Maddon sticking with Cishek was the most logical move. It might have made sense to insert one of the aforementioned lefties to face Jankowski, but no one could've predicted that Cishek would walk him and then a third straight batter. Plus, Cishek (whose groundball percentage is 48.7 this season) was one pitch away from inducing an inning-ending double play.
The end result didn't go the Cubs' way on Tuesday, but sticking with Cishek was the best option at the game's tipping point.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.