Wieters debut stacks up to the greats

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So Matt Wieters made his debut last night. It was a rather
uneventful one: 0-for-4 (fly out to right, grounder back to the box,
weak grounder to 3rd, and a backwards K), and the poor Orioles fans
couldn’t even watch him take BP because of rain. Surely there will be
some highlights to come for the top prospect in baseball, but an 0-fer
debut, in a twisted way, actually puts him in some good company. Let’s
take a look at how some other Hall of Fame catchers fared in their
first game.

Johnny Bench made his debut on August 28th, 1967 at Crosley
Field as the Reds hosted the Phillies. Less than 10,000 people were in
the stands. Hitting 7th in the lineup, Bench popped up to short in his
first at-bat against Dick Ellsworth. But Bench had already had his “Welcome to the Majors” moment in the top half of the inning, when the opposing catcher, Gene Oliver,
stole third. The oppposing catcher! Ouch. Two innings later,
Philadelphia’s Don Lock tried to take second, but Bench gunned him

Unfortunately, his first caught stealing didn’t translate to success
at the plate. In the bottom of the 4th, Ellsworth struck him out
looking, and in the 6th, against Turk Farrell,
Bench went down swinging with the tying run on third base. In the 9th,
trailing 3-2, Bench was lifted for the batting prowess of Chico Ruiz,
who was hitting .227 with a .577 OPS at that point (and was a career
.240 hitter with 2 HR). Ruiz flew out to left and the Reds eventually
lost. It would get much better for Bench after that.

A little more than 2 years later, on September 18, 1969, Carlton Fisk was behind the plate at Fenway Park for the first game of a doubleheader. With Mike Cuellar
on the mound for the Orioles, Fisk grounded out to third in the in 2nd
inning and then gave the shortstop some work in the 4th. Cuellar got
him swinging in the 7th and then to pop up to second the end the 8th.
No one tried to steal off of Fisk, although he did have a passed ball.
About a month later, those same Orioles would fall to the Amazin’ Mets
in the World Series in five games.

What about Gary Carter? He was a late September call-up for
the Expos in 1974, and made his debut on September 16th on the back
half of a doubleheader against the defending NL Champion Mets at Parc
Jerry in Montreal. This was the battle for 4th place, and only 9,166
people (assuming they all hung around) were there when The Kid stepped
in face Randy Sterling leading off the 3rd inning. He grounded out to third, and then flew out to left in the 5th. Tug McGraw
was on the hill when Carter batted in the 7th, but he fouled out to
first. he had the chance to be a hero in the bottom of the 9th though.
The tying run was on first with two outs, but Carter grounded into a
fielder’s choice to short, and the Mets held on. 0-for-4, but at least
he put it in play every time, unlike Bench or Fisk.

Didn’t any all-time catcher have an auspicious debut, you ask? Well of course. We just haven’t spoken about one Michael Joseph Piazza.

It was 73 degrees and sunny on September 1st, 1992, but the Cubs
must’ve really been awful because only 14,981 showed up to Wrigley
Field that day. Too bad, because a few thousand more people could’ve
been able to say, “I was there when the greatest hitting catcher of
all-time played his first game.”

Batting 6th in the Dodgers lineup, Piazza drew a walk in the 2nd inning off of pitcher Mike Harkey.
In the 4th, he didn’t give Harkey a chance to pitch around him, lining
a double to right-center, the quintessential Piazza hit. In the bottom
half of the inning, Dwight Smith attempted to steal second.
Maybe you could get away with that stuff in 2002, but not on this day:
Piazza gunned him down. In the 6th, he singled between third and short,
and then did the same off Paul Assenmacher in the 8th. After that, he was lifted for pinch runner Eric Young.
The game would last 13 innings, but in Piazza’s 8, he went 3-for-3 with
a walk, double, and threw out the only baserunner who tried to steal.
Not too shabby.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.


The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder: