SAN FRANCISCO -- It's gotten to the point that Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon can nitpick when it comes to his team's many victories in the second half. While playoff contenders behind them scramble for wins, Maddon is looking for even more.
"You love to win the game," Maddon said after the Cubs' 8-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. "Under the circumstances, to have certain people participate that you prefer not having participate, that's the part that detracts a little bit."
That sounds confusing if you didn't see the game. Maddon is referring to his top bullpen arms who were called upon to finish up after the Cubs got out to an 8-0 lead. He was hoping to save them.
"With all the wonderful things that happened in that game, the fact that [Pedro] Strop and [Hector] Rondon had to pitch is the negative," he said. "With an 8-1 lead you would like to stay away from those two guys, but we were unable to do that."
Righty Tommy Hunter and lefty Clayton Richard combined to give up four runs in the eighth inning, forcing Maddon to use his high-leverage guys. Is this a concern going forward? The Cubs are down a man as middle guy Jason Motte went on the disabled list on Monday with a sore shoulder. Hunter has a 6.00 ERA in 11 games since being acquired at the trade deadline while Richard has thrown well at times but has a 5.56 ERA as a reliever in seven games. On top of it all, the Cubs have decided to roster four lefties in the bullpen. The score was only 8-2 at the time, but when Richard faced righty Andrew Susac with the bases loaded, the matchup worked in favor of the Giants. Susac cleared the bases with a double.
"With an 8-2 lead you have to try and ride it right there and not get Strop up but then we had to," Maddon said.
It's something to keep an eye on as the season inches toward September and potentially some fresh arms. Maddon eventually found his way back to the subject of Rondon and Strop being used, as it was clearly on his mind. He wasn't thrilled with the sequence of events, despite a sixth consecutive victory.
"That's [why] we have to really batten the hatches down in those moments with the relief pitching right now to make sure certain guys can have a day off," Maddon said.