The Cubs are in a do-or-die matchup with the Pirates Wednesday night but it doesn’t seem like Joe Maddon’s appetite for mixing things up has lessened.
It could be the opposite.
All year, Maddon has been fearless when it comes to deploying different defensive alignments and Wednesday night looks to feature another one.
Kyle Schwarber, who’s only spent 14 innings in right field all year, was working in right field during Tuesday’s practice, checking out how the ball caroms off the out-of-town scoreboard at PNC Park. That scoreboard cuts down the considerable size of the outfield here in Pittsburgh and figures to make it an easier place to play.
Tommy La Stella was the last Cubs player off the field taking grounder after grounder at third base. While he’s capable at third, Kris Bryant has shown plenty of improvement and ability at the hot corner this year. LaStella, however, offers Maddon a lefty bat that’s able to cover Gerrit Cole’s considerably tough fastball.
That leaves Bryant, the shoe-in NL Rookie of the Year, to work in left field–a spot he’s played for 39 innings this year.
That set-up would drop the defensive ability in two spots, to be sure, but in my estimation, not all that much. Maddon could trot Austin Jackson out to right–but he’s never faced Cole before. Chris Coghlan isn’t an ace in the outfield and hasn’t hit Cole well at all.
The play here is that runs will be hard to come by on both sides. Arrieta is as good as it gets and Maddon will count on his limiting good contact in lieu of defense. With LaStella, Bryant and Schwarber in the lineup, he’s putting his best offense forward.