Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Dodgers at Cubs

Leave a comment

With the Dodgers and Cubs less than an hour away from first pitch, here are a few things to consider:

– Eric Milton (1-0. 3.00) makes his third start of the year for the
Dodgers. Milton won his first game in nearly three years his last time
out, limiting the Rockies to a single run over five innings. He didn’t
pitch at all last season because of Tommy John surgery. He was called
up from Triple-A Albuquerque on May 14.

– Sean Marshall (3-3, 3.70) toes the rubber for the Cubs. He pitched
five innings in a rain-shortened win over the the Pirates on Wednesday,
allowing one run while striking out six. He’s lowered his ERA from 4.15
to 3.70 over his last four starts. Left-handed batters are just
6-for-35 (.171) off the 26-year-old southpaw.

– Alfonso Soriano has a .133 batting average over his last 11 games
that has seen his batting average dip to .246, but he is 6-for-12 (no
homers) in his career vs. Milton.

– Juan Pierre is batting .394 since taking over left field for the
suspended Manny Ramirez on May 7. The Dodgers are 13-9 in that time.

– The Cubs have gone deep in eight straight games.

– Reed Johnson has three homers and six RBI in over his last six games after failing to homer in the season’s first 24 games.

– The Dodgers were shut out for the first time this season on Saturday. They have yet to lose three in a row this season.

– After winning the National League’s Rookie of the Year award in
2008, Geovany Soto has struggled this season with a .215/.338/.273
line. He has homered just once in 121 at-bats.

– Without the presence of Ramirez, Andre Ethier’s batting average
has dropped from .327 to .257. He was among the league leaders in RBI
when the month started, but he has just three RBI in his last 20 games.

– The injury-riddled Cubs have won four of their last five games to bring their record to 15-12 this month.

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)
Getty Images

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:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.