Daily Dose: Phillies turn to Madson as closer

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Brad Lidge was flawless last year, converting 41-of-41 save chances
with a 1.95 ERA, but blew six saves in 19 tries this season while
posting a 7.27 ERA and the Phillies placed him on the disabled list
Tuesday. Shutting Lidge down for a while may be the only way to stop
manager Charlie Manuel from using him in the ninth inning, so giving
his knee and arm some rest was the right move for the Phillies.

Ryan Madson was fantastic as Lidge’s primary setup man last season
and hasn’t missed a beat this year, posting a 2.84 ERA and 98/32 K/BB
ratio in 111 innings since the beginning of 2008. He’ll take over
ninth-inning duties and is an obvious must-own in all leagues, with
J.C. Romero stepping back into his setup role after returning last week
from a 50-game suspension.

While the Phillies hope that some time on the sidelines can cure Lidge, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* There were few surprises at the top of the draft Tuesday night, as
the Nationals selected San Diego State phenom Stephen Strasburg at No.
1 and the Mariners took North Carolina hitting machine Dustin Ackley at
No. 2. San Diego went with prep outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3, while
Missouri ace Kyle Gibson fell all the way from consensus top-10 talent to Minnesota at No. 22 due to injury concerns.

Strasburg is capable of making an impact in the big leagues this
season, but the Nationals will have a difficult time simply signing him
by the mid-August deadline and there’ll be nothing to play for in
Washington anyway. Regardless of whether you buy into Strasburg being
the greatest college pitcher of all time or just one of the best in a
long time, if signed he should be a big fantasy asset by mid-2010.

* David Ortiz’s homer Saturday was a Fenway Park special, but his
two-run blast Tuesday off A.J. Burnett was a true bomb to deep center
field. His OPS narrowly squeaking past .600 is hardly cause for
celebration, but Ortiz has at least shown some actual signs of life
this month by going 7-for-24 (.292) with two homers and a double. With
his eyes checked and his swing looking better, maybe it’s time.

* Jesse Litsch has spent the past couple months rehabbing his elbow
injury after Dr. James Andrews twice recommended rest instead of
surgery, but those plans disappeared Tuesday when the Blue Jays
announced that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery later this week. Litsch
had emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter, going 20-19 with a 3.83
ERA in 50 starts, but now faces 12 months of recovery.

AL Quick Hits: Jed Lowrie (wrist) is reportedly about one week
from beginning a rehab assignment … Brad Bergeson tossed eight
scoreless innings Tuesday for his third straight impressive outing …
Adam Lind homered Tuesday for the fourth time in five games and now
ranks fifth in the league with 45 RBIs … Ben Zobrist went deep Tuesday
for the 12th time in 148 at-bats and is sporting a 1.094 OPS after
coming into the year as a .222/.279/.370 hitter … Jose Arredondo was
10-2 with a 1.62 ERA last season, but is headed back to Triple-A after
posting a 5.55 ERA and pitching just three times since May 25 … Aaron
Poreda will work out of the bullpen initially after being called up
Tuesday, leaving Jose Contreras in the rotation with Bartolo Colon
(knee) going on the disabled list … Mark DeRosa hit a go-ahead grand
slam Tuesday and has 42 RBIs in 56 games despite a modest
.267/.332/.449 overall line … Cliff Lee’s streak of 10 straight Quality
Starts came to an end Tuesday with four runs in six innings.

NL Quick Hits: Jordan Zimmermann was scratched from his Tuesday
start with a sore elbow, but is slated to pitch Saturday … David Wright
homered Tuesday for the first time in over a month and is now batting
.348 … Johan Santana served up four homers Tuesday for just the second
time in his career, yet still managed his eighth victory … Jeremy
Hermida delivered a walk-off homer Tuesday versus Jason Motte … Mat
Gamel made his fourth straight start at third base Tuesday and smacked
his second career homer … J.J. Putz (elbow) underwent surgery Tuesday
and won’t be allowed to throw for at least six weeks … Carlos Gonzalez
went 2-for-4 with a steal while starting in left field Tuesday … As
expected, Chris Iannetta (hamstring) came off the disabled list Tuesday
and resumed starting for the Rockies … Pittsburgh will call up Charlie
Morton to start Wednesday against his former Braves teammates … Milton
Bradley (calf) rejoined the starting lineup Tuesday and is now
available for another injury.

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: