PHOENIX -- No matter how Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon explains his decision, it doesn’t add up: Pitching to Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt with the game on the line can’t be a good strategy -- not when you have another option.
“We were not trying to throw that pitch on that count,” Maddon said after the Cubs' 3-2 loss Friday night. “We just threw that pitch on that count. We had a different strategy set up, and it didn’t play out. That’s what happens sometimes.”
The pitch was a fastball by reliever Pedro Strop in a 2-2 count with the Cubs leading 2-1 in the eighth inning. Jean Segura represented the tying run at third base, with both first and second base open. Goldschmidt singled up the middle.
“The guy on-deck is a pretty good hitter,” Maddon said of David Peralta. “We saw him hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop against [Cubs reliever] Travis Wood [in the ninth]. Give Goldschmidt a lot of credit right there.”
Goldschmidt gets more than credit. He gets MVP votes, like, every year. David Peralta does not. When we talk about small samples, Peralta’s hot start is the very definition of such. He was 8-for-17 this season coming into Friday, but he is a career .228 hitter against lefties, and that’s in a much larger sample (162 at-bats).
Wood was already warming up when Goldschmidt stepped into the box, but Maddon chose not to put the go-ahead run on at first, no matter who was at the plate.
“Strop is pretty good,” Maddon said. “He made [Goldschmidt] look bad [Thursday]. I kind of like the matchup with the breaking ball. We just didn’t get to it, and he got a hit.”
Strop got down 2-0 in the count -- right there was another opportunity to walk Goldschmidt intentionally -- but he kept pitching and eventually evened the count at 2-2. That’s as close as the Cubs got to getting Goldschmidt out, as catcher David Ross second-guessed himself and chose fastball over slider.
“We were going to stay down and away,” Ross said. “Had a ball come back over the middle. That’s what happens with good hitters.”
That's why good hitters -- really good ones, such as Goldschmidt -- get walked sometimes. There were four outs left for the Cubs to squeak out their first close game of the year and stay undefeated. It would have been a nice game to win, considering the news earlier in the day about losing Kyle Schwarber and that for the first time in 2016, the Cubs would've been victorious solely because of their pitching staff. It didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t tomorrow. The Cubs are talented, but this is one they let slip away.
“He got the better end of it,” Ross said. “If I have the chance to get him out, I get him out. The guy behind him has been hotter than he is.”
But that guy's name isn’t Goldschmidt. It’s Peralta. There’s a big difference. Ask yourself this: Would the Diamondbacks have been happier with their best hitter at the plate or with him at first base representing the lead run?
The answer is obvious.