MCADAM: WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS JOE MADDON THINKING?
Some World Series thought as we head to Game 7 Wednesday night:
* It’s a good thing the Indians and Cubs are going to play a Game 7, since maybe, the inherent drama can save the Series.
Of the six games played to date, only two — the 1-0 shutout by the Indians in Game 3 and the Cubs’ 3-2 victory in Game 5 — have been remotely competitive.
The others — including Game 6 Tuesday night — have been rather one-sided, with two of the games decided by six runs, another by five and one more by four.
That’s hardly constituted a classic Series between the two championship-starved franchises.
It’s a reminder, too, that great story lines don’t necessarily make for a great Series.
Terry Francona seeking his third ring hasn’t made this a classic Fall Classic. Nor has Theo Epstein’s bid to go down in history as the man who engineered two historic World Series wins with two long-suffering teams.
Nope, it takes great games to make a World Series and there haven’t been nearly enough of those.
In some ways, this is starting to resemble the last World Series to go the distance — the 2014 Series in which the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals.
In that one, five of the first six games played were decided by five or more runs.
Despite that, the Royals and Giants presented a stellar Game 7, with the Giants prevailing thanks to five scoreless relief innings from ace Madison Bumgarner.
The game — and the Series — ended with the Royals’ Alex Gordon at third base, representing the tying run, 90 feet feet from home plate.
Perhaps Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians will offer something similar — a heroic performance from a pitcher, ninth-inning rally with the season on the line.
God knows, the 2016 Series could use a great final act.
* It was difficult to understand what Joe Maddon was up to Tuesday night in Game 6.
With his team leading by five in the seventh inning, he inexplicably went to Aroldis Chapman. Chapman got the final out of the inning, but in so doing, he tweaked his knee covering first on a groundout to the right side.
He pitched the eighth, too, and issued a walk before being lifted after
the Cubs scored two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth, giving them a seven-run cushion.
Couldn’t Maddon hadve gone with either Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon to get the final seven outs? After all, they were good enough to be the Cubs’ two best relievers for the first four months before Chapman arrived at the trade deadline. And they were good enough to help the Cubs build the best record in the game up to that point.
Instead, Chapman 20 pitches. Combined with the 42 he threw in Game 5, that’s 62 pitches in the span of three days.
How sharp will be for Game 7?
Afterward, Francona cited Chapman’s usage as the lone silver lining of the night.
“You always want to win the game,” he said, “but the next best thing, and we’ve talked about this before we even started, was try to make them use pitching even in a loss. So we hung around enough, at least Chapman had to pitch. You never know, maybe that helps us.”
It’s true that Maddon has plenty of other options for Game 7, with starters Jon Lester and John Lackey available in relief. But they almost have to pitch clean innings. And accomplished as they are, they’re not accustomed to pitching late, high-leverage innings in what will almost certainly be the most important Cubs game in modern history.