Despite outcome, Maddon stands by decisions

Manager pleased with Cubs' play, credits Indians' strong pitching

October 26th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Afterward, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had no regrets about any of it. He stuck up for his decisions. He stuck up for the results, too.

"I'm fine, we're fine," Maddon said.

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Maddon understood he had left himself open to a couple of second guesses. He was good with that, too.

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Instead, Maddon tipped his cap to the Indians, who beat the Cubs, 6-0, in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

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"I'm not disappointed by any means except for the fact that we did not win," Maddon said. "Like I said, they pitched really well tonight."

The final score was uglier than the actual game. This is where Maddon figures in.

Cue the what-could-have-been.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Indians led, 3-0, when Cubs left fielder led off with a single.

Indians manager Terry Francona immediately walked to the mound, took the baseball from his starter, , and called for left-hander .

Miller has been baseball's most dominant reliever this postseason, throwing 13 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out 24.

Francona bought him into the game to face , Chicago's 23-year-old designated hitter.

Schwarber is a left-handed hitter, which is not the conventional matchup a manager looks for against Miller and his wipeout slider.

Also, Schwarber was playing his first game in six months, having made a nearly miraculous recovery from an April knee surgery. He'd doubled off Kluber in the fourth for his first hit of the entire season. Hadn't Maddon pushed this Game 1 experiment far enough?

Instead, Maddon allowed Schwarber to face Miller. Schwarber made that decision pay off by drawing a tough walk.

When followed with a single to load the bases, Miller was on the ropes for the first time this postseason.

One hit might have tied the game and set up a contest of dueling bullpens.

Maddon made one conventional move by sending up pinch-hitter , a right-handed hitter, to face Miller. He flied to left.

Cubs shortstop then struck out on a nasty Miller slider.

Finally, Maddon had probably his most difficult decision of the inning. Should he allow , a right-handed hitter, to face Miller? Or go for one of his better offensive players, say, or ?

Maddon stuck with Ross, who got in front of Miller 3-1 before taking one slider for a strike and swinging and missing at a nearly unhittable one.

"I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys," Maddon said. "As it turned out, he got called out on a check swing that could have been ball four."

Ross had gone 3-for-5 against Miller in their previous matchups, but those had come six years ago.

"He's not the same guy now," Ross said. "The slider is really hard to hit. You're trying to size up the slider and protect against the heater. He's got 96 [mph]. You can't just sit slider. I'm just trying to protect and battle."

The Cubs would have one more chance against Miller, in the top of the eighth, when Schwarber struck out on another slider.

Likewise, Maddon liked Schwarber's at-bats.

"Great," Maddon said. "I mean, he accepted the walk the first time. That was outstanding. That's when Miller still was kind of frisky. The second time up, he's kind of on fumes and he battled through and pretty much missed a hanging slider there at the very end."

As Schwarber said, "That slider of Miller's is a plus-plus pitch for a reason."

Afterward, Maddon could take heart that his guys had forced Miller to throw a season-high 46 pitches, putting his availability for Game 2 on Wednesday in question.

"This was kind of reminiscent of [Game 1 of the American League Division Series vs. Boston] where he threw 40, 41-plus [pitches], and he was ready to come back and pitch the next night," Francona said. "I just think that there's a lot that can happen tomorrow. One, we might not have the lead. Two, it might rain. Three, we could have a lead and he won't be available for as much. But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win."

As for Maddon, his guys had struck out 15 times, but he liked the approach and poise and all the rest. All that hadn't worked out was the bottom line.

"I'm not upset whatsoever," Maddon said. "I'm a believer."