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Joe Maddon’s use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 was… questionable

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When Cubs shortstop Addison Russell hit a grand slam in the top of the third inning to give his team a 7-0 lead, the Cubs’ odds of winning the game went from 86 percent to just under 97 percent. From that point on, the Cubs’ odds of winning never slipped below 93.5 percent, according to FanGraphs.

Manager Joe Maddon, seeing his team in an elimination game, understandably was a little tense and decided to use closer Aroldis Chapman to get the final out of the bottom of the seventh inning after lefty Mike Montgomery put runners on first and second with two outs. The Cubs’ odds of winning then were 97 percent, but still, it’s an elimination game and the Indians were threatening. Chapman got Francisco Lindor to end the inning on a bang-bang play at the first base bag. Chapman, covering first, seemed to suffer a leg injury on the play as he came away hobbling.

The questionable part came when Chapman took the mound to start the eighth inning. The Cubs had all the time in the world to get someone else warming up, but they didn’t. The Cubs’ odds of winning, at the start of the frame? 99 percent. They would have had to give up at least five runs over the next two innings, or a 22.50 ERA. While Pedro Strop (2.85 regular season ERA), Hector Rondon (3.53), and the rest of their bullpen mates are not Chapman, they are not 22.50 ERA pitchers, either.

Chapman worked a quick eighth inning, working around a one-out walk of Jose Ramirez by getting Yan Gomes to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. He had thrown 25 pitches to this point. Maddon gambled using Chapman in a low-leverage situation and he appeared to injure himself, then Maddon continued to rely on Chapman, but they seemed to walk away unscathed. You gambled and won, walk away from the table.

Chapman again took the mound to start the ninth inning. Chapman issued a five-pitch walk to Brandon Guyer to lead off the inning before departing. After the game, Maddon told FOX broadcaster Tom Verducci he had Chapman start the inning because he needed time for Strop to warm up. Which, well, why wasn’t he warming up earlier anyway?

Strop came in and, as if to punish those of us advocating his use earlier in the game, uncorked a wild pitch to move Guyer to second, then allowed Guyer to score on a line drive single to right field to Roberto Perez. Luckily for Strop, Perez was thrown out trying to advance to second base on a Jason Heyward missile. Strop then walked Carlos Santana, causing Maddon to come out and replace him with lefty Travis Wood, who got Jason Kipnis to foul out to end the game.

Maddon’s team won comfortably, by six runs, but he took some unnecessary risks in doing so. The Cubs were never really in danger of losing this game and it would have taken a meltdown of epic proportions for the non-Chapman relievers to blow a five-run lead. The risks taken in using Chapman unnecessarily included him suffering a freak injury (which appeared to happen), exacerbating the injury by continuing to use him, and reducing the likelihood that Chapman has the stamina and effectiveness to go more than one inning in Game 7. True, the Cubs will have all hands on deck tomorrow — including Jon Lester and John Lackey — but I think even Maddon would admit he’d prefer to hand the ball to Chapman in the seventh and eighth innings over those two in Game 7.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.