CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had one thought cross his mind when he watched St.Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina slide hard into second base on Sunday trying to disrupt a double-play attempt by shortstop Addison Russell.
“I have a dog named Winston -- an English bulldog” Maddon explained. “I love when the cat comes up to Winnie and scratches at him and Winnie doesn’t blink. He stays right there. I’m always impressed that Winnie doesn’t back off. I thought about that when Addy went through that moment. God, he’s like Winston.”
Molina came in hard, but it didn’t bother Russell who said he enjoyed the intensity of the weekend series against the Cardinals. Maddon liked that his 21-year-old rookie didn’t back down.
“I love the way Addison reacted to that entire moment,” Maddon said. “You have a cat with a claw in his face and he stood there like, ‘No big deal, no big deal. I’m fine. Let’s go.’”
Lineup construction: Maddon has varied his lineup in recent days batting his pitcher in the more traditional nine-hole while moving Russell up in the order at times. Each new lineup is constructed with several variables in mind from who the opposing pitcher is to who’s hot at that moment and who Maddon wants to protect in the order. On Monday, he had Russell batting seventh and Chris Coghlan batting ninth as the rookie has graduated to a different role.
Until now Maddon wanted Russell to see better pitches hitting after the pitcher, but Coghlan is a better pure on-base threat leading to the top of the lineup and Maddon feels he doesn’t need to coddle Russell as much.
“We’re at the part of the season where I’m not concerned about that anymore as much as I’m concerned about hitting someone in the nine-hole,” Maddon said.
Coghlan’s walk percentage is 11.2 percent compared to 7.5 percent for Russell, so Maddon prefers the former to set the table.
“It benefits the top of the order better by batting Coghlan ninth,” Maddon said. “You’re feeding [Kyle] Schwarber and [Kris] Bryant like you want them to be fed.”
Ramirez role: Reliever Neil Ramirez is slowly gaining his manager’s confidence back after throwing two clean innings against the Cardinals over the weekend. He struck out four while allowing just one baserunner.
“The look in his eyes is getting more confident,” Maddon said. “Next time out you might give him a meatier role. Make him a co-star instead of just featuring.”
Ramirez has only thrown 10 2/3 innings this season after batting shoulder and oblique problems. His velocity is slightly down but his effectiveness could be returning.
Arrieta for Cy Young: Once again, Maddon stated his case for Jake Arrieta to win the NL Cy Young Award, calling his game “staggering.”
“I’ve not seen anything like this,” Maddon said. “A combination of pure stuff and results. It’s incredible to watch.
“You have to consider what’s happening down the stretch, what a guy means to this team. That’s why I believe Jake should land at the top.”
Arrieta attempts to win his 20th game on Tuesday night against the Brewers.
Berry bothered: Pinch-running specialist Quintin Berry was caught stealing for the first time in a major-league uniform in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Cardinals. He’s now 25-for-26 in his career.
“Bad jump, good pitch, perfect throw,” Berry said Monday. “Bad combination.”
Berry said it weighed on him all night, but he got comfort from his mother.
“My mom said not to beat myself up,” Berry said. “It was a real rough night. We’re out here to do a job, and you don’t get it done. Guys battling all day, and you can’t help them. It’s hard, man.”