Saturday April 11th, 2015

Friday's contest between the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies came with a unique caveat: both starting pitchers hit eighth in the lineup.

Managers Joe Maddon and Walt Weiss slotted in pitchers Travis Wood and Tyler Matzek, respectively, into the eight-hole, a rare occurrence that hadn't happened in Major League Baseball since 2008.

Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is considered the pioneer of the strategy. Maddon, after picking La Russa's brain over the years, hit pitchers eighth at times in interleague games during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Weiss opted to copy his opponent on Friday.

"And I copied Tony," Maddon told the Associated Press. "Our whole lives are one big plagiaristic moment."

On July 13, 2008, starters Joel Pineiro and Ian Snell both batted eighth for the Cardinals and Pirates, respectively, according to STATS.

"One school of thought would be, especially at this time of year, you don't think your pitchers are going to go as deeply into the game," Maddon said. "It provides that pinch-hitting spot a little bit sooner. However, with Travis Wood, he is our middle-inning pinch hitter anyway because he's such a good hitting pitcher. But primarily it permits you to pinch-hit sooner for a pitcher that you don't think is going to pitch more deeply into the game.

Weiss said he wanted two position players in front of Troy Tulowitzki, who was batting second, since the Rockies were facing a left-hander. One advantage of the strategy is that the ninth hitter serves as a "second leadoff hitter" for the top of the order, placing the traditionally easier out in the eight-hole and turning the lineup over faster.

"I just think it's one of those things that's always been done in a certain way so people think that your pitcher is supposed to hit ninth," Maddon said. "The only time I think it could be viewed as a disadvantage is bases loaded, two outs, here comes the pitcher. But that could also happen in the nine hole.

"Last point, two outs, runner's on second base, here comes the eight hole, your pitcher is hitting: 'Oh, I wish I had my (regular) eight-hole hitter there now.' (But) why would you pitch to that guy anyway in that situation and bring the pitcher up regardless?"

Colorado won the game 5-1, with Matzek going 1-1 with a run scored, though he lasted just four innings. Wood went 0-2 for Chicago.

•  Rockies honor Ernie Banks before game against Cubs

- Jeremy Woo


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