Joe Maddon made a risky decision to use his best reliever for almost 3 innings, and it saved the Cubs’ season

aroldis chapmanJonathan Daniel/Getty

Facing elimination Sunday night, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon made a risky decision that helped save the Cubs’ season.

Down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, the Cubs were trying to keep their season alive.

With a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, after reliever Carl Edwards gave up a hit to the Indians, Maddon turned to Aroldis Chapman, his best reliever and typically the Cubs closer, to get them through the game.

It was a bold decision. Chapman is usually reserved for the ninth inning, and had pitched over two innings just once this season (in July, coincidentally, against the Indians when he was with the Yankees). Had Chapman faltered, Maddon would have had to turn to another reliever late in the game.

Instead, Chapman delivered, throwing 42 pitches for four strikeouts while giving up just one hit. In particular, in the eighth inning, with the tying run on third base, Chapman came up with a huge inning-ending out against the red-hot Francisco Lindor. Working with catcher Wilson Contreras, Chapman delivered three straight sliders to Lindor. Then, with a 2-2 count, Chapman gassed a 101-mph fastball that froze Lindor and ended the inning.

After the game, Chapman said (through a translator) that Maddon had told him to be prepared to possibly go in earlier than the ninth inning.

“Joe talked to me this afternoon before the game. He asked if I could be ready possibly to come into the seventh inning, and obviously I told him, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready to go.’ And whatever he needs me to do or how long he needs me to pitch for, I’m ready for it.”

Chapman added that he physically prepared himself before the game to go more than one inning.

As Edwards said after the game, “Chapman is a horse. He’s different. He’s a different person. He’s a different breed.”

The Cubs still face a monumental task to win the World Series. Though the series is now 3-2, they’ll have to pull out two more wins in Cleveland. But Chapman (and Maddon) helped the Cubs survive for one more game, keeping the Cubs’ hopes alive.

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