The Cubs and Reds were tied at two in the 14th inning Tuesday night in Cincinnati, and the north-siders were running short on players, when manager Joe Maddon’s neurotransmitters began heating up in the dugout.
Maddon brought in Spencer Patton to pitch. Patton got an out, and then Maddon sent him to left and brought in Travis Wood to pitch. Wood got an out, and Maddon sent him to left and brought Patton back to the mound.
Patton got the third out, and then the Cubs’ hitters went to work, plating five in the top of the 15th, highlighted by Javier Baez’s grand slam.
Another Cubs pitcher, Jason Hammel, had pinch-hit for Patton in the top of the 15th, so in the bottom half, Wood came in from left to relieve Patton, and Maddon sent reliever Pedro Strop out to left. The north-siders got through the inning without further maneuvering or incident and won, 7-2.
After the game, Maddon explained his machinations, but without PowerPoint it was hard to follow. There’s always a method to his Maddoness, but sometimes one suspects that a basic ingredient is simply having fun. Maddon allowed that when he made his first left-field change, “The infielders were kinda giggling.”
It’s a perfect time for a chuckle for the Cubs and their fans, because recently, they’d been entering the not-time-to-panic stage. After the north-siders dropped their sixth of seven games Sunday, a multitude of voices worriedly insisted it wasn’t time to worry. An ESPN story was headlined “Joe Maddon isn’t panicking but admits, ‘We have to firm things up.'”
“I don’t think we’re panicking,” Hammel said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s a 162-game season. You can’t hit the panic button.”
Certainly not in June. Cubs fans need to conserve their energy for the peak panic season of September.
Being told not to panic is hardly ever reassuring, in any event. (Patient: “How were my test results?” Doc: “Well—nothing to panic about . . . “)
As if the recent slump weren’t troublesome enough, the Tribune also revealed Monday that Jake Arrieta, who was scheduled to pitch that night in Cincinnati, had been dealing with “nasal congestion.” This may have reminded veteran Cubs worrywarts of the game that outfielder Jose Cardenal missed in 1974 because he couldn’t get his eyelid unstuck, or the sneeze in 2004 that sent slugger Sammy Sosa to the disabled list with a pulled back muscle.
Pitching with great stuffiness instead of great stuff, Arrieta surrendered five runs to the lowly Reds in five innings, which yanked his ERA into the mere-mortal 2.00s.
Worse, the Trib also reported Monday that because Arrieta lost a bet to teammate Tommy La Stella on the College World Series, he’ll have to get a tattoo of La Stella’s Coastal Carolina team. Especially in this prepanic period, the last thing Cubs fans need to hear is that their ace is scheduled to get tattooed.
But no need to panic. Arrieta also homered and singled Monday night, lifting his batting average to .294. If he can’t pitch, he can always play left.