(CBS) With the Cubs playing their best baseball of the season and holding the second National League wild-card spot by four games, part of the conversation has turned to how they’d match up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the current wild-card leader, in a one-game playoff.
In that regard, Chicago manager Joe Maddon has no reservations about utilizing the battery of left-hander Jon Lester and catcher David Ross, despite each sporting a clear deficiency — Lester’s inability to hold runners on base and Ross struggling at the plate.READ MORE: Parents Of Michigan School Shooter Arrested After Manhunt
One concern that’s been raised is that if the Cubs were to engage in a low-scoring one-game playoff against an opposing ace, the foe may take advantage of Lester’s disdain for pick-off throws and run wild to set themselves up for a difference-making run or two. Last Thursday, the Brewers stole five bases off Lester, including four in one inning.
To this, Maddon essentially shrugged in an interview with the Spiegel and Goff Show on Tuesday.
“We’ve worked on it from spring training to this conversation,” Maddon said of Lester holding runners on. “I’m really not that worried about it, honestly. I think David Ross has done a great job of controlling the running game when he pitches. It’s something we’re going to continue to work on. I really believe Jon wants to get beyond all this and we’re going to continue to help him get beyond all this. But in the meantime, I don’t want to make such a big deal out of all of it to the point he loses focus on getting the hitter out. That’s it. Dwight Gooden, when he pitched, couldn’t throw the ball to first base. Everybody stole second base. I don’t think (Greg) Maddux was really efficient at keeping guys from stealing second base. I’m not worried about this. I’d rather he just focus on the hitter.”
Maddon also looks past Ross’ light hitting — a .184 average, .562 OPS and seven RBIs in 53 games. Ross is Lester’s personal catcher.
“I’m telling you, everybody’s who’s always paying attention to David Ross’ batting average, come sit in the dugout, hang out in the clubhouse, watch what this man does,” Maddon said. “And then I promise you that you’ll stop worrying about that. He is so much more than a batting average.READ MORE: Evanston Police Host Gun Buyback Event
“Listen, I come from the land of pitching and defense, man. When you get guys that can defend — I don’t even know how many runs or RBIs that’s worth on a daily basis.
“All these things matter. So I want to de-emphasize all that (pick-off trouble). Let’s keep working on it but not worry about it.”
There’s nothing about the Lester-Ross pairing that — at this point in time, at least — would prevent Maddon from using them in any game, he said. If the Cubs can keep a comfortable lead in the wild-card race entering the season’s final week, Maddon should have a choice of starting Lester or right-hander Jake Arrieta in the one-game playoff.
If that decision presents itself, Maddon will analyze the pitcher-batter matchups, not the base-running concerns.
“You got to play everybody,” Maddon said. “The big thing when you get to a team that’s able to run a lot, as an example, is to keep those guys off base. That’s a big part of it. It depends how we pitch against that particular group. That would be a really big part of it.”
Listen to Maddon’s full interview below with Spiegel and Goff.MORE NEWS: Annual Wheaton Reindeer 5K Returns In Person And Virtually