Cubs manager Joe Maddon used a wacky scheme where he played pitchers out of position, and it worked

joe maddonRob Foldy/Getty

The Chicago Cubs pulled out a 7-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night in a wild 15-inning affair.

While it was ultimately Kris Bryant’s tie-breaking single and Javier Baez’s grand slam in the top of the 15th that won the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s unusual pitcher rotation in extra innings helped keep the Cubs alive.

Through 12 innings, the Cubs had used five pitchers and were running low heading into bottom of the 13th. That’s when Maddon busted out a risky, wacky, but ultimately brilliant scheme to play matchups to the Cubs’ advantage.

In the bottom of the 14th inning, with the game still tied, Maddon put in right-handed reliever Spencer Patton, while left-handed reliever Travis Wood played left field, replacing normal left fielder Chris Coghlan. Maddon had actually substituted Wood into left field in the bottom of the 13th inning. (More on this later.)

Patton faced the Reds’ righty batter Brandon Phillips and recorded the first out of the inning. Maddon then had Wood and Patton switch positions, sending Wood to the mound while Patton played left field. Wood then faced left-handed batter Jay Bruce and got Bruce to ground out for the second out of the inning.

Maddon then had Wood and Patton switch positions again, sending Wood back to left field and Patton back to the mound to face righty batter Adam Duvall, who grounded out to end the inning.

Here’s another way to break down the substitutions Maddon made during the 14th inning:

  • Patton vs. Phillips, Wood in left field
  • Wood vs. Bruce, Patton in left field
  • Patton vs. Duvall, Wood in left field

It was a bold way for Maddon to get pitching matchups he liked while not sacrificing another reliever. Had Maddon simply pulled Wood out of the bullpen in the 14th inning to replace Patton, he couldn’t have put Patton back into the game to face Duvall, nor could he have put Wood back in the game if he replaced him. Both pitchers would have been done for the night.

The Cubs finally broke out in the top of the 15th with Bryant’s single and Baez’s grand slam. Wood then pitched the bottom of the 15th and closed out the game, with right-handed reliever Pedro Strop playing left field.

The move was risky, of course. Not only did Maddon have Wood, Patton, and later Strop, playing out of position in left field, but when he put Wood in left field in the 13th inning it also meant Wood had to bat in the top of the 14th.

Though Wood lined out during his at-bat, Maddon got away with it because in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs held the Reds scoreless to keep the game tied. Wood batting also was risky because if the Cubs had gotten on base before him, they would then have a weak batter in the middle of the lineup during a key moment.

After the game, Maddon said: “When I went out there to do it originally, the infielders were kind of giggling.”

He then praised Wood, saying: “Travis, my God, what an athlete. … Travis made everything possible. He may have had his best stuff all year.”

Wood said he would have liked to record an out from left field, but no balls came his way.

According to Deadspin’s Tom Ley, this is not the first time this tactic has been used, but it seems fitting that Maddon, the mad scientist, pulled it off.

“We used a pitcher in left field for the last three innings, right?” Wood said. “You don’t get to see that a lot. It made it fun and interesting, and we pulled off the victory.”

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