There's a temptation, whenever a team is facing the prospect of its season ending in bitter playoff defeat, to expect decisive action and bold strokes. Some glass must be broken; this is an emergency.

For baseball men of a certain age, though, there is often a pull toward conservatism every bit as strong as the push of urgency. For most of Game 5, that gravity held Joe Maddon relatively still, from a tactical standpoint. He filled out more or less the lineup that brung ‘im, including Jason Heyward in right field and Javier Baez at second base, even after four games of largely floundering offense left the team on the brink of elimination.

He stuck with Jon Lester (and David Ross) much deeper into the game than one might have expected, under the circumstances. And he never found a moment at which to use Kyle Schwarber. Yet, ultimately, he made his most desperate managerial move since joining the Cubs, and it paid off, helping the club change the venue of the World Series one more time.

Firstly, let's consider Maddon’s lineup, and Terry Francona’s, for that matter. Maddon kept his typical top four in the batting order, but with Ross set to catch Lester and a right-handed opposing starter with whom to deal, the manager elected to slide Addison Russell back up to the fifth spot, followed by Heyward and Baez. That was the defense-first lineup option, without question, and it would pay off throughout the game.

Francona, meanwhile, chose to start Carlos Santana in left field for the second time in the three games played under NL rules in Chicago. With Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer rounding out his outfield, Francona had the offensive matchups he wanted against a left-handed starter and, presumably, he planned to do just what he'd done behind Josh Tomlin in Game 3–make it as far as the middle innings, hold a lead or a tie, and get Santana off the field to shore up the defense.

And he almost made it that far. Cleveland did score first, on a Jose Ramirez home run in the second inning, and held that edge until Kris Bryant hit an answering shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Anthony Rizzo followed that blast with a double hit nearly as hard, high off the wall in straightaway right field. The rest of that inning was an interesting exchange of missed opportunities to act proactively, by both skippers.

Francona had chances to get Trevor Bauer out of the game and quell the Cubs’ rally. Andrew Miller (inexplicably) pitched two innings in a blowout win Saturday night, so he wasn't as obviously available as he might otherwise have been, but he'd been up and doing preliminary drills immediately prior to the fourth frame. Dan Otero has thrown fewer than 90 pitches this month. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen were on the docket for later in the game. Bauer has been brutal during the postseason and in fact has struggled almost without interruption since early July.

If Francona had been intent on truly knocking out the staggered Cubs, the move was to lift Bauer at the first sign of trouble. Alas, he left him in to face the next six batters, after the Rizzo double. It could have hurt much worse than it did. Ben Zobrist singled. Addison Russell chopped a ground ball to third for an RBI infield single. That brought up Heyward, and sent the strategic impetus scampering toward the third-base dugout. With two on and nobody out in a 2-1 game, that plate appearance had a Leverage Index of 1.76. That's almost exactly the threshold at which it's 50/50 as to a game ever getting that tense.

Maddon had his entire bench–Miguel Montero, Willson Contreras, Chris Coghlan, Albert Almora, and *Kyle Schwarber*–available to him at that moment, and a chance to break the game open. He allowed Heyward to bat, though, and got the natural consequence: a strikeout. That Baez then laid down a gorgeous bunt single to load the bases seemed, momentarily, like the universe giving Maddon a second chance. Ross was due, in a spot with a 2.30 Leverage Index, meaning there was a roughly even chance that this game would present no more clear an opportunity to tilt the balance.

By then, just about everyone sensed that it was time for Schwarber to pinch-hit, and to make the kind of impact for which the Cubs hoped after they found out their semi-injured slugger would be stuck on the bench during these three games. Maddon, however, made no move. Bauer and the Indians got out of the inning trailing just 3-1, their hopes of winning the series on foreign soil still viable.

Lester grinded his way into the sixth inning, not allowing that lead to budge. In the top of the sixth, though, he found trouble, in the form of the third trip through the Indians’ batting order. He never ought to have been in that trouble. With a two-run lead, in the sixth inning of a game that could have ended the Cubs’ season, Maddon ought to have had someone else on the mound against Davis, Kipnis, et al. Instead, Lester slogged through that sequence, giving up a single, a stolen base, and another (run-scoring) single. The Indians had taken advantage of Maddon’s inaction, and were now just one run behind with a runner on first base.

That's when Francona made the choice that, arguably, got Maddon off the hook, saved Lester from a painful playoff collapse, and set up the rest of the game: he ordered a second stolen base attempt, within the inning, and a third of the series for Francisco Lindor against Lester. Running on Lester is one of the most talked-about niche strategies in baseball today. His mental block about throwing to bases is well documented, and the potential benefits for a team facing him have been heavily discussed. The only problem with all that discussion is that when it comes time to translate that hypothetical advantage into a real one, many teams are unable to do so.

Lindor took off on a 1-1 Lester pitch, and despite his good lead, he was swallowed up by the combination of a quick time to the plate, a great throw by Ross, and a quick sliding tag by Baez. The inning (and Lester’s outing) was over, and the Cubs still held a slim edge. As it turned out, the Indians had just missed their last great chance to tie things up or take the lead. On came Carl Edwards Jr. to face Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana in the seventh, and when Maddon lifted Edwards (with eight outs left to get), it was in favor of Aroldis Chapman.

The Leverage Index when Maddon made that final change of the night: 2.45. It was a screamingly high-leverage spot, thanks in no small part to Edwards having allowed a single and a wild pitch to put the tying run in scoring position with one out. There's little question it was a good time to call upon one’s flame-throwing closer. It's fair to wonder, though, whether it was a good time to call upon this flame-throwing closer. Chapman isn't Andrew Miller. He had never proved himself able to get that many outs in a single game before and, in fact, had demonstrated in everything from numbers to body language to quotes to reporters that he wasn't comfortable pitching multiple innings, or coming in with runners on base.

Two bad experiences shortly after the Cubs dealt for Chapman cowed Maddon during the summer, such that he hadn't asked Chapman to pitch in situations like the one he encountered Sunday night–hadn't prepared him for such a moment. Still, Chapman rose to the occasion. He would dominate over the prolonged remaining innings, fanning four of the 10 batters he faced and putting only two runners on base. It took him 42 pitches, a season-high and two shy of his career-high, but he sliced through the Indians and ensured the series would be extended.

In the final few innings, there were buttons pressed. Dexter Fowler stole a base in the bottom of the seventh, trying to create an insurance run. In response, with first base open and two outs, Francona ordered an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo, giving Ben Zobrist a chance to completely blow the thing open. It was a gaffe, and it nearly went sour, but Zobrist swung away on a 3-0 pitch and flew out to end the threat. Then Heyward singled and stole two bases in the eighth, the second of which (a steal of third with two outs, and Chapman allowed to bat for himself) was a fascinating gambit.

Maddon had chosen to keep Chapman in the game, trading the chance of a run to cushion the team against a Cleveland comeback for the presumably minute chance of such a comeback against Chapman. Having Heyward try that steal put pressure on the Indians, since a bad throw (or a subsequent wild pitch) would have led to a free run. Almost nothing would have been lost, too, if Heyward had been caught, since Chapman’s chances of scoring Heyward with a hit were virtually zero.

Maddon waited far too long to lift his starting pitcher, missed his chances to use Schwarber in a pinch-hitting role, and put a reliever in a situation with which he has expressed and demonstrated discomfort. Still, he won the battle of wits in Game 5, by being willing to ask a big thing from a pitcher with big talent, and by staying the course. Francona got to rest his best reliever, so he’ll have more arrows in his quiver Tuesday night. The fact that Tuesday night will see baseball at all, though, is a testament to Maddon’s team out-smarting and out-playing Francona’s.

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When Ross came to the plate the score was 2-1. When he returned to the dugout the score was 3-1. That was kinda significant, d'ya think, but the article leads you to believe Ross did nothing. Lester likes (needs) Ross, Maddon understands that, weighed his options, got a man in from 3rd with less than two outs and kept the battery he wanted intact. As for the top of the 6th, Lester is still a better option than the right-handers in the Cubs pen, Maddon has shown what he thinks of those options by choosing Edwards, already a loser once in the series and looking shakier than a leaf in Hurricane Matthew, over the more established Rondon and Strop. Stealing with Lindor was the correct play but Ross was still in the game, remember that, and it made a big difference. In the bottom of the 7th Francona feared giving up one run more than he feared Zobrist breaking the game open. The difference between Rizzo and Zobrist is not great, but still significant. How can Maddon be second guessed for trying to get a long save out of Chapman? Rondon, you must be kidding, Strop, hardly the one for this spot, Wood, also not here, Montgomery, already overused. While baseball has changed since the days of Gossage and Fingers, who routinely got 6 or more outs to finish games, it is being proven again and again that these "short" men don't have to be as "short" as some modern analytical minds have led us to think is the best approach. These are human beings, not just numbers, and while Chapman may not be as good at his 40th pitch as he is at his 5th, he is still better than Rondon or Strop are on their 1st. He was still hitting 100+ after pitch 40. Debating managerial decisions is part of the lore of the game, talk radio would barely exist without it, and while these moves are, indeed, debatable all seemed reasonable. Now if you want to talk about a gaffe, the 2015 World Series revolved around Collins using Familia in the 9th inning of a 9-3 Mets blowout in Game 2 then not having him available for a long save in Game 3 then being forced to use him on three straight days with limited effectiveness. That is what you call a gaffe!
Must defend Collins- Familia always needs innings. By Game 3, he hadn't pitched since Game 1--his blown save--so Game 2 and day off gave him lots of rest. In Game 5 he didn't 'blow the save'. He got groundballs. Duda 'blew' the save. In Game 4 Murphy's error blew the save. Collins' biggest mistake was keeping Harvey in.
Nice article Matt. A couple days ago, Maddon noted in a press conference that Chapman was not ready or prepared to be used like Andrew Miller. Maddon said, essentially, that Chapman could do it, but it would require a change in the way Chapman prepares starting in Spring Training, and he just wasn't ready to be used like that right now. So what I'm wondering is whether this was misinformation. Maddon is a smart guy. Why would he give away such vital piece of information (Chapman will likely only go 1 inning per appearance) ahead of time unless it was misinformation? On the other hand, he's pretty open with the press in general. What are your thoughts on this?
It seems unlikely that you could set Schwarber up better than he was set up in the fourth inning. When Heyward came to the plate, you had Bauer on the ropes and only Clevinger warming. You had a guaranteed AB for Schwarber against a below-average righty with runners on base. In a must-win game, it doesn't even feel like a choice. You have to give that AB to Schwarber.

The Ross AB would make sense to give the Schwarbs, as well, if Lester wasn't a total headcase. Lester really needs Ross' throwing ability. I weep for the future.

Regardless, I thought Maddon boned that inning. But it wound up working out.
Heyward is your best defensive outfielder. To remove him for a pinch hitter when you have the lead in the fourth inning is counterproductive. He had already made one spectacular play in the game. Maddon actually won the game in that inning, by sticking to his defensive lineup, and getting just enough offense out of them. The defensive lineup also proved its value with five spectacular plays and many more good ones.

I think Maddon was challenging Chapman to step up with his remarks. Rather than being deceptive, the master motivator was delivering a pointed message. And the message was received.

Leverage situations are all very well, but this is still a game played by people.