CHICAGO -- The first step before calling on any of his position players to pitch was to get first baseman Anthony Rizzo out of the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.The Cubs trailed by 14 runs in the sixth inning against the Cardinals after Matt Carpenter's third home run when
CHICAGO -- The first step before calling on any of his position players to pitch was to get first baseman Anthony Rizzo out of the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs trailed by 14 runs in the sixth inning against the Cardinals after Matt Carpenter's third home run when Maddon called on infielder Thomas La Stella to get the final out of that frame. He got Yadier Molina to fly out to center on a 72 mph fastball. La Stella went 1 1/3 innings, and catcher Victor Caratini and outfielder Ian Happ each threw one inning, all pitching in after All-Star starter Jonathan Lester's abbreviated three-inning start.
"I said, 'Tommy, are you good with this?' [He said] 'I'm good with this,'" Maddon said. "'Victor, are you good with this?' [He said] 'I'm good with this.' Happ was imploring. It worked out really well. We had some fun with it."
The trio of position players combined for 3 1/3 innings, saving the Cubs relievers heading into Saturday's doubleheader. They couldn't slow down the Cardinals, who won, 18-5.
"I had to take Rizzo out of the game because he would've been badgering me the whole time," Maddon said of his plan. "It started by getting Rizzo out, and that made my decision-making process a lot easier. Imagine him being in your ear constantly that he wants to pitch."
Rizzo was still miffed in the clubhouse after the game.
"Rizzo is a little upset," Happ said. "He's been lobbying for a while. He's still lobbying."
"Riz always petitions. He wants it," said Chicago's Kristopher Bryant, who was a good pitcher in high school.
Happ, who hasn't pitched since the Cape Cod League, was the only one of the trio who didn't give up a run. Greg Garcia hit a solo homer off La Stella leading off the seventh, and Yairo Munoz connected on a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth off Caratini.
"My sinker was working," Happ said. "I tried to go four-seamer to Harrison Bader, and it didn't work. The sinker played."
Happ is now the clubhouse leader with the best ERA.
"It feels good to have the highest velo of a position player, and also it feels good to have a zero," Happ said.
Maddon had cautioned the three to not overexert themselves.
"I topped out at 78 [mph]," Happ said. "That's all I've got."
The D-backs were forced to use two position players on July 11. Prior to that, no team had used a true full-time position player to pitch before the seventh inning since 1983. It's now happened twice in nine days.
"When the game gets that out of hand, you just don't want to use your guys up," Maddon said. "We started putting the plan in play."
"I wish the game would've gone differently," Happ said, "but it was a pretty cool experience to be on the mound at Wrigley."
• The Cubs tied a Major League record by using three position players to pitch in one game. It also happened Aug. 29, 1979, when the Brewers used Sal Bando, Jim Gantner and Buck Martinez against the Royals, and also on Oct. 4, 1913, when the Washington Senators called on Germany Schaefer, Eddie Ainsmith and Joe Gedeon against the Red Sox.
• Entering Friday's play, 28 position players had pitched this season (not including Shohei Ohtani). La Stella, Caratini and Happ are Nos. 29, 30 and 31. They join catcher Chris Gimenez, who pitched one inning June 23 against the Reds. The four players are the most by any team.
• The earliest a position player had been used as a pitcher this year was the fourth inning when the D-backs brought in Daniel Descalso on July 11. Friday was the second earliest.
• The last time the Cubs had a position player pitch in the sixth inning or earlier was on Aug. 27, 1968, when Willie Smith faced the Giants in the sixth inning and finished the game.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.