PHOENIX – The Cubs probably wouldn’t have won 162 games anyway.
But the way perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt blew up their game plan in the eighth inning Friday night after Cubs manager Joe Maddon declined to walk him intentionally with a base (two actually) open didn’t help.
Goldschmidt hit a 2-2 pitch from Pedro Strop up the middle for a two-out single to drive in Jean Segura from third in the eighth to tie it, and Yasmany Tomas drove in the game winner with two out in the ninth off Trevor Cahill as the Diamondbacks beat the Cubs 3-2 Friday night at Chase Field.
The Cubs had won their first three games of the season by an average margin of 7.3 runs before letting their first close one get away late.
Not that it matters in the scheme of a long season, but it made for an especially quiet clubhouse afterward, on a day the club learned young slugger Kyle Schwarber faces season-ending knee surgery resulting from an outfield collision the previous night.
It also was a reminder of Maddon’s aggressive, often fearless, style of managing.
“I felt really strongly about Stropy right there,” Maddon said of the eighth-inning decision to pitch to one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. “And he got a pitch in the wrong spot and the guy’s a good hitter.”
With the Cubs leading 2-1, Segura was on third after a one-out double and a groundout that sent him another 90 feet.
Maddon had right-hander Cahill and lefty Travis Wood warmed up in the bullpen, which appeared to set the stage for a walk to Goldschmidt and lefty-vs.-lefty matchup against David Peralta, who hits nearly 100 points worse in his career vs. lefties than righties (.228-.324; .608 OPS vs. .913).
The difference was similar last year. And even Peralta’s 8-for-17 start to the season was heavy on damage against right-handers.
“Right there we were not trying to throw that pitch on that count,” said Maddon of the fastball that was supposed to be farther down and away to the right-handed Goldschmidt. “We had a different strategy set up and it didn’t play out. That’s the way it happens sometimes. Easily could have struck him out, hit a ground ball to somebody, popped him up. The guy on deck’s a pretty good hitter, too.”
Goldschmidt, who drove in the Diamondbacks’ first run with one-out single up the middle in the sixth, off Jason Hammel, struck out looking against Strop in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 14-6 Cubs’ win.
“Stropy’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “He made him look pretty bad [Thursday]. I kind of like the matchup with the breaking ball. We just didn’t get to it. And he got a hit.”
Of course, if the Cubs scored more than two runs – which both came during a four-walk third, without benefit of a hit – the pitch-by-pitch drama might not have been in play.
Or, for that matter, if Segura hadn’t suddenly turned into Hank Aaron against the Cubs this week – with two homers Thursday and a pair of doubles off various walls Friday. Or if second baseman Ben Zobrist knocked down Segura’s low line shot three inches to his right in the sixth that went for a single (and led to a run).
“Seriously, I’m good with everything,” said Maddon, who liked the overall hitting approaches again and the mostly sharp defensive game. “You’re not going to get it done every night.
“You can’t be an oil painting every night.”
Then again, sometimes all you need is to paint by numbers.
“That’s not my call,” catcher David Ross said of the decision to pitch to Goldschmidt. “If I’ve got the chance to get the guy out, I always try to get him out. That’s baseball. I know he’s a good player. So’s the guy behind him. The guy behind him’s been hotter than he has.
“Stropy threw the ball good. I probably should have called a slider there maybe. Who knows? I’m second-guessing it now, obviously.”