Cubs win thanks to unlikely bullpen


Forty six times the Cubs have come from behind to win this year, and tonight's 3-2 win over the Reds was probably the most emblematic of what the 2018 season has been.  

Jorge De La Rosa, who the Cubs picked up barely a month ago, pitched the last three outs for the first save of his career, one that started 15 years ago. Jaime Garcia, signed to a minor league contract two weeks ago and called up ten days ago, faced the meat of the Reds order and sat them down one at a time. Dillon Maples, who has been on the Chicago to Des Moines shuttle for nearly two seasons, got a key out when starter Cole Hamels left the game in the 7th inning.

Just like they drew it up.

"Literally using everybody. Everybody in," Ian Happ said after the game with a smirk and a nod to the team's 2018 motto.

Happ praised the bullpen Friday night, but it was his running catch in center field and three-run homer in the bottom of the 7th that also played a key role in the win.

"To get a hit in that situation, coming off what we’ve had to do in the last couple weeks, give us a chance to win a ballgame, that was great," Happ said.

Happ has struggled lately, hitting just .189 in his last 15 games, but he put together solid at bats against Reds starter Matt Harvey before homering off of reliever David Hernandez.

That home run set the stage for the first experience with a bullpen sans Brandon Morrow and sans Pedro Strop attempting to hold on to a one-run lead.

Maddon said afterward that he had been warming Alec Mills, but when he needed one more out in the top of the 7th, it was Maples he wanted for a one out appearance, saying he liked him to go out there and "jab" for an out. Maples has a high-heat fastball and a monster of a slider, but he regularly struggles with his command, so even one out was a risky proposition. He got Jose Peraza to line out to second, and then turned the game over to Garcia.

Faced with Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, and Scooter Gennett, Garcia coaxed a lineout, a strikeout, and a ground out.

And in the top of the 9th, De La Rosa made things interesting, giving up a double to Curt Casali and walking Billy Hamilton, but he finished the job and earned the first save of his career.

"I guess I might have to do that too, later on," starter Cole Hamels said in reference to his teammate's save. "I’ve pitched against De La Rosa so many times and watched him over in Colorado, and to be able to see what he’s been able to do in that transition to the bullpen, I know it’s not easy."

Hamels, who struck out 7 and gave up two runs on a pair of solo home runs in the 4th inning, said that he has been impressed by what De La Rosa is going out of the bullpen because of how many years he knows De La Rosa spent as a starter.

"When you come up as a starter, and you pitch a tremendous amount of your years as a starter, it can be a little difficult to understand what to do, especially getting in that type of situation, a save situation," Hamels said. "He definitely buckled down and was able to get it, and you really have to commend him for it."

Maddon said that he liked Garcia in the 8th inning because it kept the left-handed Cincinnati bats on the bench, and then he went to De La Rosa for the 9th because his splitter plays well against righties. They're hitting just .190 against it this season.

Despite the lack of 8th and 9th inning relief experience of Garcia and De La Rosa, Maddon said their vast experience otherwise played well in a very tight spot.

"You could see the veteran component of each guy in the moment. Neither one was too quick about anything. It was really fun to watch that," Maddon said.

Holding on to their 1.5 game lead over the Brewers and with the number to clinch the division at 15 with 15 games left to play, the Cubs needed a win like they got Friday.

"Made good pitches when we had to, made great plays when we had to, one big hit when we needed it," Maddon said, summing up the night.

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