Aroldis Chapman had never recorded more than seven outs in a game. Last night, he recorded eight. Thanks to the Cuban flamethrower’s efforts — and Joe Maddon taking a page out of the Terry Francona playbook — the Cubs stayed alive with a nail-biting 3-2 win over the the Indians. The World Series now moves to Cleveland for Game Six, on Tuesday.
August Fagerstrom wrote about the difference between Cleveland and Chicago’s bullpen yesterday. Who knows, maybe Maddon read the piece and took it to heart? Regardless of the reason, his imitative stratagem cemented a win he described earlier in the day as being “as important as oxygen.”
“We got a little taste of our own medicine,” said Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis, after the game. “Late in the year, you don’t really hold anything back. They took a page out of our own book tonight.”
Kipnis wasn’t surprised that Maddon waited until tonight to bring Chapman into a game for multiple innings. In his opinion, there hasn’t been a situation — “a low-scoring game where they had the lead” — where doing so would have made sense.
Cody Allen felt much the same way. The Cleveland closer sounded like a man who wants a lead before he brings in his best bullpen arm.
“It was an elimination game for them, so they were going to go with their best horse for as long as they could,” said Allen. “But coming in here, with three games back-to-back-to-back, you don’t want to burn your best bullet in situations where you’re down, or in a tie game. Tonight they got out to an early lead and were able to do it the way we’ve done it. It’s not surprising to me that they waited until today.”
Chicago’s Carl Edwards, Jr. wasn’t surprised either, albeit not necessarily for the same reason. He has as much faith in his manager as the Indians do in theirs.
“Joe is the wizard of our baseball team,” said the Cubs reliever. “The way he manages the games is unreal. You never second-guess him. Like I said, he’s a wizard. It feels like he’s been doing this for 100 years.”
Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan is 31-years-old and saber-savvy. He was fully on board with Maddon’s move, but sees why it probably didn’t happen prior to Game Five.
“I feel like our guys are a little different than some of their guys,” said Coghlan. “I know that analytics people love that stuff. They’ve been cheering it forever. They love Andrew Miller. It’s ‘put him in high leverage, it doesn’t matter what inning.’ But it’s not as easy as just putting a guy out there just because he’s dominant. The guy has to be open to doing it. If he’s not, it doesn’t matter how good he is; it’s not going to be successful. So, I think it’s really a testament to Chappy to be willing and able to go that long.”
Was last night the beginning of Chapman’s embrace of non-traditional, high-leverage usage?
“That’s up to him,” said Coghlan. “Only he can answer the question of whether he’s willing to do it time in, time out. I think it’s cool the way the playoffs are run. Guys are in uncomfortable positions and need to do anything for the team. That’s when you really start to respect guys, when they step out of their comfort zone.”
Rajai Davis reached on an infield single against Chapman, but that doesn’t mean he was fully comfortable in the box. After the game, he stated the obvious in saying “103 mph isn’t easy to hit.”
The Indians speedster is anything but disappointed that his team didn’t get an extended look at Chapman prior to Sunday night. Like everyone else, he saw how the likes of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman can be game-changers prior to the ninth inning, and for longer than cookie-cutter one-inning stints.
“That certainly looked like a Tito move,” said Davis. “This is the postseason — you’re trying to win games — so you bring your best reliever out. That’s a good idea. I’m thanking God it took them a few games to do that. It probably helped us out.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.