In Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, with his team clinging to a 3-2 lead, Joe Maddon brought in closer Aroldis Chapman.
In the seventh inning. With eight outs to go.
Scott Ferrall couldn’t believe it. Neither could John Harper.
“That was my first thought, too,” the New York Daily News writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You talk to Yankee people, and that’s one of the reasons that Brian Cashman specifically said from the start he’s going to be our closer. He knew that Andrew Miller could deal with being one of the set-up guys (whereas) he didn’t think Chapman could because he’s so routine-oriented. He’s always been a three-out guy.”
Well, he was an eight-out guy on Sunday and now the Cubs are back in Cleveland.
“I was surprised that (Maddon) went (to Chapman) that early,” Harper said, “but listen, better that than going down without using your best guys like the way Showalter did earlier in this postseason. It was a gamble, but it paid off. Maddon was going with his best guy and Chapman had it going. Kudos to Maddon.”
After falling down 3-1 in the series, Maddon told his players to just get the series back to Cleveland. They have. The Cubs will have Jake Arrieta on the hill in Game 6 and Kyle Hendricks for a potential Game 7.
“They do feel a lot better,” Harper said. “This Kyle Schwarber story is a great story. They feel a lot better with him in the lineup. He’s still got to have some rust, but he’s proven he can come back and do this. They love having him in there as the DH. It makes them better offensively. That’s really been their biggest issue. Even the other night, they only had the one inning.”
That problem isn’t unique to the Cubs. Cleveland has allowed just 25 runs in 13 postseason games.
“I underestimated this Indians team when the postseason started,” Harper said. “Even when this World Series started, I thought the Cubs were deeper. The starting rotation is deeper, but (the Indians) are getting by with Kluber going on three days’ rest and then the way they’re using this bullpen – they’re a tough team. They’re definitely underrated. (Francisco) Lindor is a heck of a player, and (Jose) Ramirez, the third baseman, he’s really come a long way.
“I picked the Cubs to start,” Harper continued, “but I can’t believe the Indians are going to lose both of the games at home. I think we may get to a Game 7. The Cubs ought to be able to get to Tomlin the second time they see him, so I think this is maybe going seven. But I think Kluber and that bullpen will find a way to win Game 7.”