“I love counter-intuitive,” Joe Maddon said Sunday afternoon, wearing a stocking cap and a mischievous smile. “I love it, man.” Here was the convention-toppling Cubs manager—this 62-year-old mystic who is allergic to the ordinary—sipping a hot coffee before Game 5 of the World Series and discussing the rationale behind a defense-first lineup in a moment when his team’s offense was essentially comatose. Maddon had logic-based explanations, mostly revolving around what worked best behind starter Jon Lester. But he also seemed simply giddy at the idea of upending an assumption, for the sake of upending it. It’s why he discussed a 2 a.m. pizza party with his mother and a Pandora station full of Eddie Vedder tunes and a Casey Kasem broadcast from 1979 just hours before the game that could end his team’s season. He would not abandon the sideways creativity that brought his team here. He had to believe it could take the Cubs from this one night to at least one more after it. Which brings us to the seventh inning of a one-run elimination game in late October, and Joe Maddon asking Aroldis Chapman to do something the flame-throwing closer had never done in his 28-plus years on this planet. The unmistakable pop of Chapman fastballs hitting a bullpen catcher’s glove were one thing. The opening chords of Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” rattling Wrigley Field, officially announcing his call to action, were another. The Cubs sent Chapman out to pitch longer than he ever had in a major league uniform, to make sure the last game at home wasn’t the last game anywhere. When a 101-mph offering hurried past the swing of the final batter, the Cubs had their 3–2 win. Chapman had his eight men out. Out of the ordinary does not begin to describe it.
Eight outs or bust: Maddon’s faith in Chapman vindicated as Cubs stay alive
SI | Oct 31