For Joe Maddon, using three pitchers in left field during a 15-inning game is better than:
— Any bottle of wine at Binny’s.
— All three of those things at the same time.
I think you know the answer.
To say these are the kind of situations that the imaginative Cubs skipper lives for would be a gross understatement. Managing a garden-variety major-league game is mostly cookie-cutter stuff. This left-handed batter comes to the plate, you answer with this left-handed pitcher. But watch the bench shrink during an extra-inning game and watch Maddon get stimulated. Watch the hippy-hipster get groovy.
During the Cubs’ 7-2, 15-inning victory over the Reds on Tuesday night, Maddon used pitchers Travis Wood, Spencer Patton and Pedro Strop in left field. But it was more than that, this being Joe. In the 14th, he had Patton, who had retired the first batter, replace Wood in left field so that Wood, a left-hander, could face left-handed hitter Jay Bruce. When Bruce grounded out, Maddon swapped the two pitchers again so that the righty Patton could face the right-handed-hitting Adam Duvall. Another groundout. End of inning.
Maddon used 22 of his 25 players. He used up all the fun he could scare up.
Making professional baseball your career means coming to terms with tedium. It’s the same routine every day, and although every game is different, most of the decisions are made by the book. Maddon accepts this, mostly because he has to, but he really perks up when the chance for creativity arises.
Are the Reds a good team? No, they are not. But that’s beside the point at a time when the Cubs are struggling and the Giants are challenging them for the best record in the National League. Maddon put on his wizard’s hat and helped his team win a ballgame.
“It was the Travis Wood show,’’ he said.
Not even close.