What we're watching: Dice-K returns vs. Halos

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– Now up five games over the Rangers in the loss column, the Red Sox have some margin for error in the wild-card chase. However, making tonight’s game particularly important is that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be rejoining the rotation and facing likely ALDS opponent Los Angeles. Matsuzaka last pitched in the majors on June 19, when he lost to the Braves to fall to 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA. Dice-K is expected to make four starts as he auditions for a spot in the postseason rotation, which is currently slated to include Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox would also surely like to stay in John Lackey’s head. The Angels ace is 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA against Boston in the regular season and 0-2 with a 3.66 ERA in three postseason starts.
– Adam Wainwright can take another step forward in his Cy Young bid by beating the Marlins. If he can notch his 19th win, he’d go three ahead of teammate Chris Carpenter for the NL lead. He’s gone 6-0 in his last seven starts. Trying to put up a fight for the Marlins will be big left-hander Sean West. The Marlins have won the 23-year-old’s last four starts, though all came against second-division teams. He’s 6-5 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts this season. His only win over a postseason contender came on June 8, when he shut out the Giants for eight innings.
Game of the Night
Colorado vs. San Francisco – Tim Lincecum’s impressive outing Monday allowed the Giants to pick up their second game on the Rockies in two days, but tonight’s matchup would seem to favor Colorado, assuming that Ubaldo Jimenez’s hamstring is sound. Jimenez, who was pushed back three days because of the injury, is turning in perhaps the strongest season ever for a Rockies starter. He’s 6-1 in his last eight starts and 13-10 with a 3.32 ERA for the season. Against the Giants this year, he’s gone 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA. Starting for San Francisco will be Barry Zito, who allowed two runs — one earned — over 14 1/3 innings in back-to-back starts against Colorado on Aug 24 and 29. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as sharp since. In two starts this month, he’s allowed five runs and walked seven in nine innings.

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.