CHICAGO -- Does Cubs manager Joe Maddon trust reliever C.J. Edwards?That's the wrong question.Of course Maddon trusts Edwards. He brought him in to pitch the 10th inning in Game 7 of the World Series last year, and Maddon used Edwards more often than anyone else in the Cubs' bullpen this
CHICAGO -- Does Cubs manager Joe Maddon trust reliever C.J. Edwards?
That's the wrong question.
Of course Maddon trusts Edwards. He brought him in to pitch the 10th inning in Game 7 of the World Series last year, and Maddon used Edwards more often than anyone else in the Cubs' bullpen this season. He wasn't going to bail on him just because he served up a monstrous home run to Bryce Harper in Game 2 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
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But what about Edwards? Would he still trust himself after giving up the Harper homer, even if he faced Harper again?
That was the question on the table Monday at Wrigley Field, and it took only five pitches to Harper for it to be answered.
Two days after being the losing pitcher, Edwards was the winning pitcher of the Cubs' 2-1 win in Game 3 on Monday.
"I'm really happy for him, seriously, because that's something you don't want a kid to carry with him too far,'' Maddon said. "He's going to be a big part of our future, so bully for him.''
Edwards struck out Harper in the middle of a perfect eighth inning, then celebrated Anthony Rizzo's game-winning single, which puts the Cubs in position to eliminate the Nationals today.
"I was excited,'' Edwards said. "I told you [after the] last outing that I wanted really, really bad [to get back out there]. Just me getting back out there really helped a lot.''
Maddon has counted on Edwards since the middle of the 2016 season, when it became clear he could throw strikes with a high-spin-rate fastball that hitters had trouble catching up to. He struck out 94 batters in 66 1/3 innings this season, the sixth-best strikeout rate in the Majors among pitchers who threw at least 65 innings.
Maddon had little doubt the 26-year-old Edwards would bounce back after hanging a curveball to Harper. He had kept his eye on him since that crucial moment at Nationals Park, and was convinced the quiet man from Prosperity, S.C., was just fine.
"I talked to him [briefly],'' Maddon said. "I patted him on the plane the other night. I just said, 'Hey, man, we're good.' He smiled, and I knew he was fine. [I] watched him yesterday in our little brunch [during an informal workout] and saw him talking with his family and everybody. [He] looked good. "He's got tremendous talent, and he came back and, [against] pretty much the same part of the batting order, did it again.''
Maddon had used Pedro Strop after pulling Jose Quintana in the sixth inning -- a move that didn't work initially. Ryan Zimmerman's double off Strop gave Washington a 1-0 lead. But Strop retired Jayson Werth to end the sixth and stayed in to work a perfect seventh against the bottom of the lineup.
Edwards was warming up when the Cubs tied the game on Albert Almora Jr.'s pinch-hit single off reliever Sammy Solis, and Maddon turned to him to face the big boys.
Benjamin Zobrist made a good play to retire Trea Turner on a hard grounder, and Edwards didn't flinch when Harper stepped into the box.
He stared into Willson Contreras' mitt and poured in five consecutive fastballs: 97 mph, fouled off; 96 for a ball; 95, fouled off; 95 for a ball; then 95, swung and missed. Over and out. The last one ran inside on the left-handed-hitting Harper, who wouldn't have minded another curveball up in the strike zone.
"Same approach as last time I faced him,'' Edwards said. "Just last time, I left a hanging curveball up.''
Edwards finished his outing by retiring Anthony Rendon on a grounder to Addison Russell. Closer Wade Davis followed him with a perfect ninth inning, making it 10 straight Nationals retired after Zimmerman's double in the sixth.
That's how you draw it up.
Pitchers aren't considered regulars in baseball's parlance, but quality relievers might as well be in today's game, considering they appear in almost every game in the postseason.
Albertin Chapman worked in 13 of 17 postseason games for the Cubs' championship team last year, followed by lefties Mike Montgomery (11 games) and Travis Wood (nine games). This time around it looks like Edwards, Strop and closer Wade Davis will be the staples for Maddon. By the way, Davis has now pitched 22 2/3 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason. Whenever the Cubs can get a lead to him, they're in good shape.
"I think our identity is we have kind of a three-, four-headed monster down there," Rizzo said. "We have guys who can get outs when we need to get outs, and [this] was no different. We have full trust in our bullpen, and when our starters go deep like that, it really makes it hard for the other team to score some runs."
The work of the key relievers will be huge if the Cubs are to advance to the World Series. Every game won't end like this one, but the key is to forget the bad ones quickly, and Edwards passed the first test of this fall with flying colors.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.