ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon knew his bullpen would eventually become a factor in his team's divisional playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and in Game 2 that premonition came true.
After all, with just two high-end starters in Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, Maddon realized other games in the series would come down to his relief staff. That was the case Saturday, as three relievers led by Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill helped nail down a 6-3 win that tied the series 1-1.
"Bullpen was outstanding," Wood said after the game. "I was fortunate enough to come in and be able to get us 2 1/3, and then Cahill came in and did outstanding, and Ronnie [Hector Rondon] closed the door. You can't ask for much more."
Wood is right: You really can't ask for much more as Maddon shook up his bullpen rotation. He passed over his normal setup man, Pedro Strop, and instead chose relative newcomer Trevor Cahill for the eighth inning. It was a brilliant move precipitated by what Maddon saw Friday night in Game 1. He had Strop enter a game the Cubs were already trailing 2-0, just to test the waters, as Strop had been rocked by the Cardinals this year. Strop's ERA against the Cardinals -- before he gave up a two-run home run Friday -- was 11.05. After seeing the long ball by Stephen Piscotty, Maddon chose a different route for Game 2. Changing roles has been the norm for Maddon all season, so his players weren't fazed.
"I feel like that's kind of his goal," Wood said. "That way everybody is always on their toes. You never get complacent, you never get set back, you're always ready to go."
As for Cahill, he arrived late in the season and has been a different pitcher than the one who produced a 7.52 ERA in 15 games with the Atlanta Braves and was banished to the minors. His eight hits given up in 17 innings for the Cubs earned him a spot on the postseason roster.
"I have history with [catcher Miguel] Montero," Cahill said. "He's done a good job of transitioning me back in the bullpen and getting me ready. My changeup has been good. He knew it was the pitch that would take me to the next level. That, and being able to throw strikes."
Who knows with Maddon? Strop might be right back in there for the eighth inning next game, or it could be Cahill's job from now on. After an easy 1-2-3 eighth Saturday, Cahill could be a bigger factor than anyone imagined when he signed up with the Cubs amidst little fanfare.
"Regardless of the score, I'm trying to get outs," he said. "If you look at it like that, it won't speed up on you."