All hands on deck in Cubs' bullpen for Game 4
CHICAGO -- Back in the heat of August, when the Cubs were just hoping to stay alive in the postseason race, Joe Maddon was thinking of his bullpen.
Then, he was thinking of which pitcher needed to have innings limited, who was pitching on back-to-back days and which situations they should experience. Now, after the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Mets on Tuesday night, he's thinking about who isn't available.
Despite using six relievers across five innings, Maddon isn't limiting anybody in his bullpen from pitching in Wednesday's elimination game in the National League Championship Series (air time 7:30 p.m. ET, game time 8 p.m. on TBS). Instead, it's all hands on deck, using whatever they have left from that time in August.
"It's not just about tomorrow's game," Maddon said after Tuesday's loss. "Like I said, I think the bullpen, even though you saw a lot of guys play today, they're really not taxed going into tomorrow. The number of pitches thrown was relatively light, and they also had a day off previous.
"So even if we have to do that tomorrow, we've been pretty successful, actually, keeping the other team down. We've just got to score more runs. I'm not concerned about that, honestly."
The bullpen has not been used in strenuous situations during the NLCS, since the Cubs have never led at any point through three games. But no member of the bullpen pitched more than an inning after starter Kyle Hendricks lasted just four innings Tuesday.
Trevor Cahill's wild pitch allowed the go-ahead run to score, but it was Travis Wood who surrendered two runs in the seventh inning that put the game out of reach. They were the first runs the bullpen had allowed in the NLCS.
Maddon employed Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon to each pitch an inning -- both scoreless -- and was willing to use two of his strongest arms even if he needed to turn to them in Game 4. With Jason Hammel on the mound Wednesday, Chicago could turn to its bullpen early once more. And even with a lead, Maddon could turn to the same relievers to lock down the win.
"I would think we are all hands on deck," Grimm said. "It's that time of year; you got to be ready to go all day. It doesn't matter if it's two, three, four days in a row, you just got to be ready to go."
Added Rondon: "We know the situation we are in right now, and I think we try to take it game by game. Right now, as pitchers, we're ready for anything. You've seen their closer [Mets reliever Jeurys Familia] -- they almost pitch every day -- so it's no big deal for our bullpen."
Maddon has still kept the possibility of a Game 5 or Game 6 in the back of his mind, which is why he has used only one reliever in all three games.
Even then, Clayton Richard has tossed a combined two innings over all three games of the NLCS, while Justin Grimm, Cahill, Wood and Strop have all thrown twice. With a day off Monday, the Cubs' bullpen has had enough rest for everyone to find extra energy in Game 4.
"It's the postseason; there's all hands on deck any way you cut it," Wood said. "Whatever anybody can do to help the team win, we'll do it."