What we're watching – King Felix vs. Wakefield

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– Actually, we’re probably not going to tune in, but surely many will
be watching Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension tonight
against the Padres. The disgraced slugger went 3-for-10 with a homer
and three walks in five minor league games.

– Zack Greinke, Kevin Slowey and Tim Wakefield are all possibilities
to become the AL’s first 11-game winner tonight. Greinke has won two in
a row after going 0-2 with two no-decisions in his previous four
starts. He’ll get the White Sox, a team he’s 5-8 with a 4.20 ERA
against in his career. Slowey is coming off his worst start of the year
(5 ER in 3 IP vs. St. Louis). He’ll pitch against a Detroit club that
he beat with six innings of one-run ball back on May 12. He’s 3-0 with
a 4.75 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers. More on Wakefield
in a minute.

– Alfredo Figaro followed up a decent first start with a poor second
outing, so now the Tigers have decided to see if they can catch
lightning in a bottle with 23-year-old Lucas French, who will make his
first major league start against the Twins after going 4-4 with a 2.98
ERA, 71 H and 72/20 K/BB in 81 2/3 IP for Triple-A Toledo. French’s
stuff is below average, but he’s left-handed and throws strikes. If he
can get Twins hitters to offer at his curve, he might have some luck.

Game of the Night

Seattle vs. Boston – Pitchers don’t get a whole lot more different
than Felix Hernandez and Wakefield. Those two will face off as the
Mariners begin a three-game series in Boston. King Felix has been
dominant in his two career starts at Fenway, turning in one of his
three career shutouts and pitching six scoreless innings in the other
outing. He’s 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA in six starts against the Red Sox
overall. Wakefield carries a four-game winning streak and a 6-0 mark at
home this season into the start. He could really use that 11th win
tonight in order to strengthen his bid for making the All-Star team for
the first time in his career. Hernandez is already pretty close to a
lock for the squad.

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:

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)
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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 MLB.com’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.