Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon shed his usually calm demeanor on Thursday in defense of his players – hoping to spark a club that’s been stagnant all year.
Looking to avoid a four-game sweep by the division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates emotions were likely running high among the Chicago Cubs during Thursday’s series finale. However, veteran manager Joe Maddon reached a breaking point after multiple pitches came up and in on his players.
After Pirates right-hander Jordan Lyles threw several pitches up and in on Chicago’s All-Star shortstop Javier Baez during the top of the fourth inning, Maddon came out of the dugout. First, Maddon argued with home plate umpire Joe West. Soon, he made his way toward the Pirates dugout and manager Clint Hurdle, but he was stopped and ejected before he could get there.
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Maddon watched the remainder of the ballgame from the clubhouse and Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta took over as manager for the rest of the game. Though Lyles didn’t actually hit Baez or any of the batters he threw up and in to reliever Clay Holmes ended up beaning third baseman David Bote in the head on a breaking ball.
While Bote was able to remain in the game, West was forced to issue warnings to both ball clubs, but nobody was ejected after the incident. Though it isn’t ideal to have your manager ejected from the game, the Cubs fed off of Maddon’s fire and came through with a 11-3 victory over the Pirates, avoiding the four-game sweep.
The real question now is whether or not the Cubs can turn the momentum stemming from their manager’s ejection into some form of long-term success. The club has played some of its sloppiest ball in the Maddon era of late – and the margin for error in the packed NL Central has never been smaller. Entering Friday night, all five teams are separated by a mere 3 1/2 games.
In Thursday’s win, third baseman Kris Bryant went 4-for-5 and both Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras finished the game a triple shy of a cycle. In addition, second baseman Robel Garcia made his first major league debut with the Cubs getting his first major league hit with a triple in the third inning. He also hit his first major league home run and fell a double shy of a cycle.
The Chicago Cubs have Friday off, and Saturday they take on the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox, beginning a brief two-game weekend series at Guaranteed Rate Field. After the All-Star Break, the Cubs take on the Pirates again, but this time in the Friendly Confines.