Joe Maddon’s use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 almost came back to haunt him

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You can’t say we didn’t see this coming. During Game 6 — and in my article posted shortly after its completion — I questioned Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s unnecessary use of closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Cubs had a five-run lead facing two Indians runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Maddon chose to bring in Chapman despite it still being a demonstrably low-leverage situation. Chapman got Francisco Lindor to ground out to end the inning. That’s fine if that’s the extent of Chapman’s workload for the night.

But it wasn’t. Chapman pitched the eighth inning, striking out Mike Napoli and getting Yan Gomes to hit into an inning-ending double-play. 15 pitches doesn’t seem like a lot, but Chapman also pitched 2 2/3 innings in Game 5. Entering Wednesday’s seventh and final game, only Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta — starting pitchers — had logged more inning in the World Series than Chapman’s 6 1/3. The reliever with the most innings after Chapman? Mike Montgomery at 4 1/3. To say the Cubs have leaned on Chapman is to understate how much of a security blanket he’s been for Joe Maddon.

It showed in Game 7 when Maddon brought in Chapman to relieve Jon Lester (who, by the way, did not start) with a runner on first base and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Chapman threw seven pitches to his first batter, Brandon Guyer. His fastball sat mostly in the high 90’s, which is pedestrian by Chapman’s standards. The lefty has thrown more 100+ MPH pitches than entire teams this season. Guyer hit a double to right-center field to bring in a run and cut the Indians’ deficit to 6-4. Chapman continued to pump high-90’s fastballs to Davis and Davis eventually connected for a game-tying, two-run home run down the left field line.

To make matters worse, Maddon sent Chapman back out to the mound for the ninth inning. Maddon gambled with Chapman on Tuesday and it didn’t cost him even when Chapman appeared to roll his ankle covering first base. It cost him in the eighth inning, but he didn’t lose all his chips, so Maddon shoved his remaining stack in the middle. Luckily for him, Chapman was able to navigate through the bottom of the ninth with no damage. Maddon, though, had Cubs fans sweating the entire time he was pumping 97 MPH fastballs in the strike zone.

Ultimately, the Cubs were able to sneak out with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings to win the World Series. It didn’t have to be this difficult.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.