Daily Dose: Philly close to signing Pedro?

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Reports surfaced early this week that the Phillies had renewed interest
in Pedro Martinez and now it sounds like the two sides could be close
to a deal. Martinez said Thursday that his agent is negotiating with
the Phillies after they scouted his workout Tuesday and a report out of
the Dominican Republic even claimed that a one-year deal worth $4
million was already in place.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. refuted reports of a done deal, but
clearly the Phillies are seriously interested in Martinez and an
official announcement by the end of the week wouldn’t be surprising. If
healthy he remains capable of being a solid fourth or fifth starter for
a contending team like the Phillies, but Martinez will probably need
some time to shake the rust off before being an NL-only option.

While the Phillies hope that Martinez has another half-dozen wins
left in the tank, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Joel Pineiro tossed his third complete game of the year Thursday
as Milwaukee managed just one run on three hits and no walks. Pineiro
is having a career year with a 3.20 ERA through 17 starts, yet with
just 48 strikeouts in 115.1 innings his strikeout rate is horrible
after previously just being poor. Instead of missing more bats he’s
simply become the most extreme ground-ball pitcher in the league.

He recorded 19 ground-ball outs Thursday and is the only starter in
the league to induce a ground ball on over 60 percent of his balls in
play, which is remarkable given that Pineiro never even cracked 50
percent grounders from 2000-2008. In the past hitters have teed off on
his low-90s fastball, but now he’s working in the high-80s with
significantly more sink and the results are amazing.

* Ozzie Guillen was very pessimistic Thursday when asked about
Carlos Quentin returning from his foot problems, saying that he expects
him to remain out for “a while.” Quentin has already played multiple
games on his rehab stint at Triple-A, so Guillen admitted that he
“maybe” ready shortly after the All-Star break despite wanting to avoid
rushing him back until “he’s ready to help us here.”

* Dusty Baker announced Thursday that he’s benching Jay Bruce for at
least two days in an effort to break the recent slump that has his
batting average down to .209. “I’m letting him clear his head, like
Jimmy Rollins … and Magglio Ordonez,” Baker said. While his average
isn’t pretty, Bruce is actually showing more power and plate discipline
than last year and his OPS is only down about five percent.

* David Price showed how great he can be when he actually throws the
ball over the plate Thursday, holding Toronto to one run over six
innings while out-dueling Roy Halladay with seven strikeouts and one
walk. Price has been maddeningly inconsistent while going 3-3 with a
4.70 ERA overall, but has 47 strikeouts and a .241 opponents’ batting
average in 44 innings. He’s very close to breaking out.

AL Quick Hits: J.P. Howell received Thursday off, so Dan Wheeler
picked up his first save of the season … Brandon Inge won the “Final
Vote” competition for the AL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out
Ian Kinsler … Clayton Richard is in danger of being replaced in the
rotation by Bartolo Colon after struggling again Thursday … Ryan Garko
started in the outfield Thursday for the eighth time this season and
went 4-for-5 at the plate … Kevin Slowey (wrist) is slated to begin a
throwing program Friday … Mark Teixeira took Francisco Liriano deep
Thursday for his first homer since June 12 … Cardinals general manager
John Mozeliak indicated Thursday that he’ll contact the Blue Jays about
Roy Halladay … After having his rehab delayed by a knee injury, Jed
Lowrie (wrist) is set to come off the disabled list within the next two
weeks … Handed nine runs of support, David Huff couldn’t make it
through five innings to get the win Thursday.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Parra returned to the Brewers’ rotation
with seven shutout innings Thursday … Manny Ramirez went 2-for-2 with
two RBIs and two walks Thursday … Shane Victorino won the “Final Vote”
competition for the NL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out Pablo
Sandoval … Raul Ibanez (groin) is slated to come off the disabled list
Friday after being out since June 18 … Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 while
again batting eighth in the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday … Javier Vazquez
has been scratched from his scheduled Sunday start due to a strained
abdominal muscle … Fernando Martinez (knee) and his .517 OPS landed on
the disabled list Thursday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) is scheduled to
rejoin the rotation Sunday … Orlando Hudson left Thursday’s game after
being hit on the knee by a pitch … Livan Hernandez coughed up eight
runs on 11 hits Thursday, finishing the first half at 5-5 with a 5.10
ERA … John Bowker could have some NL-only value after being called up
Thursday by the Giants.

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)
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 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.