By Bruce Levine--
ST. LOUIS (CBS) -- For a manager who hates the bunt, Cubs dugout boss Joe Maddon ordered two instead of eschewing them in a turning-point inning for his club on Saturday evening in a 6-3 win against the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLDS.
During Chicago's five-run second inning, Maddon had his team put pressure on Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia by laying down consecutive bunts.
Each bunt turned into an RBI. The first was by Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who laid down a safety squeeze that allowed Austin Jackson to score. Indecisive on where to throw the ball, Garcia finally fired it wide of first for an error, putting runners on second and third. Addison Russell followed with a safety squeeze as well to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
Both Garcia and Hendricks were gone by the fifth inning. The Cardinals hit three home runs off Hendricks, including back-to-back shots by Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk in the fifth. Matt Carpenter led the bottom of the first off with a homer for St. Louis.
The critical win for the Cubs sends them home to Chicago for Game 3 and Game 4 with an advantage in the best-of-five series. They will have ace Jake Arrieta slated to go on Monday against Michael Wacha.
For Maddon, staying in the moment was the key to asking a team that hardly used the bunt the first five months of the season to try it in a big moment.
"Yep, there are some different things we have been working on," Maddon said. "It was all set up perfectly. It was the pitcher first of all, then here comes (Addison Russell), who has done a lot of good work and extra work in regards to making that play. The key is the situation has to present itself before you can take advantage of it."
The Cubs used the long ball to put the game away. Little-used outfielder Jorge Soler, a part-time player since getting hurt in August, hit a two-run home run and put the exclamation point on the five-run second inning.
Maddon has had the self-created luxury of getting big results from every corner of his 25-man roster with selfless responses.
"All year long, everybody has put their part into us winning " said Soler, who was on base four times with the home run, a double and two walks. "We try to do whatever we can for one and other. We pull for each other every day."
The Maddon magic has its roots in all phases of the game, during the 40-year experience of this baseball lifer. Maddon saluted his friend and confidant, the late Don Zimmer, for his initiative in trying consecutive bunts.
"I mean, this is all Don Zimmer stuff," Maddon said about using unexpected tactics. "This is all Zim. When I went to the Rays several years ago, Zim cornered me and I actually asked him about some things (outside the box) that he had used. Whenever these (quirky things) work, I think of Zim."
Somewhere tonight the former Cubs manager Zimmer is smiling down upon the present Cubs manager.
Maddon related an anecdote.
"'I like numbers like anyone else,'" Maddon said of what Zimmer once told him. "'I like the gut and the unexpected even better.'"
So does Maddon.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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