CHICAGO – Whether you like the answers he gives or whether you agree or disagree with the reasoning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon never backs down from a good barroom debate or even a second guess.
Maddon held court from his end of the bar – figuratively, of course – after Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at foggy Wrigley Field.
Order up another round because here we go.
The Cubs and pitcher Kyle Hendricks trailed the Pirates, 1-0, in the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks to a home run by Josh Harrison leading off the game.
Addison Russell led off the fifth with a single, and he went to second on an error by shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Hendricks was due up with his pitch count at 87. A bunt could have moved the runners ahead.
Instead, Maddon chose to go with pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella, who was 12 for 31 in that role.
La Stella hit into a 4-6-3 double play, and Javy Baez struck out to end the inning. In the sixth, two Cubs relievers combined to give up five runs, and that was the ballgame.
“They had [Austin] Meadows, [Corey] Dickerson and [Colin] Moran all coming up,” Maddon said of the Pirates. “It was all set up. You got the best pinch-hitter in the league coming up, and he just happens to hit into a double play, which is going to happen on occasion. But Kyle did his job. Everything was right there. We just did not get the hit.
“You’ve got to look at the whole picture. Meadows, Dickerson and Moran coming up,  pitches. If I’ve got to pull him the next inning without really taking a shot right there, then it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. On top of that, Kyle gets it. He understood it entirely. So you’ve got to look at the whole thing. We weren’t scoring a whole lot of runs. So you’ve got to try to get them whenever you can.”
Hendricks, who fell to 4-6 with a 3.48 ERA, said he understood.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “That’s the game right there. You’ve got a chance to get on the board, you’ve got to take it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Nine times out of 10 with Tommy, that’s going to work. You’ve got to play the percentages there.
“As far as me, just a little bit of a battle, but better. At least mentally it was better. Mechanics, I’m just fighting myself on some of my mechanics, repeating it. That’s really where the problem’s at.”
The Cubs will bus Monday to Milwaukee with a 37-25 record, one-half game behind the Brewers (39-26), who lost Sunday to the Phillies.