CHICAGO – It was the top of the seventh inning in a game the Chicago Cubs trailed 1-0 to the New York Mets on Wednesday night. An insurance run by New York could have been all that was needed to secure the victory as a two-run lead would have felt like five in near-freezing temperatures.
After Dilson Herrera singled with one out, Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was asked to bunt him over and then let the top of the order go to work on that insurance run. Instead, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo performed one of the smarter plays of the season as Harvey popped up the bunt towards him.
“If the guy is not going to run, let it drop,” manager Joe Maddon explained Thursday morning.
That’s exactly what Rizzo did as Harvey took a couple of steps towards first, after the poor bunt, without much urgency. Rizzo let the ball drop and fired to second to get Herrera as the return throw from Starlin Castro got Harvey for an inning-ending double play.
“As soon as it did I’m saying, ‘Let it fall, let it fall,’” Maddon said. “That’s something you do talk about in spring training.”
The Cubs scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to earn a win, but without Rizzo’s play who knows what the outcome is.
Jorge Soler: Maddon was asked how outfielder Jorge Soler was handling some struggles at the plate, especially when there are players on base or in scoring position. Soler is hitting .271 overall, but his numbers plummet in RBI situations.
“He’s going to come out on the other side of this,” Maddon said. “In the meantime you have to support him, talk to him, coach him, you have to help him.”
Maddon indicated that Soler does show frustration after some at-bats -- that’s to be expected. How he responds at the plate the next time up is most important.
“Sometimes you equate big people as being more mature as opposed to their age,” Maddon said. “This is a young, big man struggling on the major-league level right now. Of course he’s going to be dejected or disappointed or whatever. He’s going to be fine though.”
Soler is really only having major struggles with men on base. For the most part that’s when he should be seeing good pitches. But instead of taking advantage of the pitcher being on the ropes he has been anxious, striking out 23 times in 58 at-bats with men on. Maddon isn’t fazed and believes the prospect with so much plate discipline will show up soon.
“This is a player every organization would like to have their hands on,” he said. “When things are going poorly this is when he needs you the most.”
Walking wounded: Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella is headed to Double-A Tennessee for a rehab assignment, Maddon announced on Thursday. La Stella has been out since April 8 with a rib cage injury. When he’s ready it’s doubtful the Cubs would send Addison Russell back to the minors, more than likely they’ll return to the more normal roster configuration of 12 pitchers and 13 position players.
There’s nothing new with outfielder Chris Denorfia as he works his way back from a hamstring ailment, while reliever Neil Ramirez is still in Arizona throwing bullpen sessions as he recovers from shoulder inflammation.