(CBS) In the biggest moment of a crucial Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night, Cubs closer Wade Davis was available.
And he was also nowhere to be found.
In the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to turn to No. 5 starter John Lackey in relief for the second straight day instead of Davis, the team’s lone All-Star and rock. The decision backfired, as Lackey served up a walk-off three-run homer to Justin Turner that lifted the Dodgers to a 4-1 victory and commanding 2-0 series lead.
Asked to explain his reasoning, Maddon expressed both an old-school mentality and also concern regarding Davis warming up.
“I really just needed him for the save,” Maddon said. “We needed him for the save tonight. He had limited pitches. It was one inning only. In these circumstances, you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had copped the lead, he would’ve pitched. That’s it.”
Lackey struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer for the second out of the ninth after entering with the winning run on second base. Maddon explained that he liked Lackey’s matchup there and against Chris Taylor, another righty-swinging batter who followed. Taylor worked a walk off Lackey, setting up Turner’s heroics. Turner hit .322 in the regular season, the third-best mark in the NL.
Maddon’s answer for using Lackey against Turner was muddled, at best.
“Once that walk occurred, then all bets are off against Turner,” Maddon said. “Nobody is really a great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out.”
Maddon later clarified that it’s by no means his practice to always hold his closer back for a save opportunity, but he felt it was best in this case.
“I don’t necessarily hold off for the save (always),” Maddon said.
“Understand, when you have a guy like that coming off the performance that he had, to warm him up and then not use him is equally as bad. Warm him up, not put him in the game and then ask him to pitch maybe two innings later, that’s really not good for him. So today, tonight, I was really waiting for that opportunity to grab the lead and then throw him out there. That’s what it was all about. There was no way he was pitching more than one.”