Tigers likely playoff bound in spite of Washburn

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Thanks to playing in baseball’s worst division the Tigers look headed to the postseason despite Jarrod Washburn posting a 7.33 ERA in eight starts since arriving via trade with the Mariners, but now his status for the playoffs is in doubt. That is, if the Tigers even wanted him stepping on the mound in October.
Washburn allowed four runs in the first inning of yesterday before exiting with pain in the left knee that has bothered him for much of the season. As manager Jim Leyland put it after an ugly 11-1 loss: “Right now, it doesn’t appear he’s pitchable.” No structural damage has been found via multiple MRI exams, but Washburn made it clear that something significant is wrong:

It’s just as bad, or maybe a little worse, than it’s been. The pain has been pretty bad, but it’s never swelled up. And today after just one inning, it swelled up pretty bad. I don’t know if something else got hurt in there or what. It’s definitely not getting better. I’ve tried to pitch through it, and I’m not helping the team at all.

We’ve tried everything. I don’t know if there’s anything more that we can try from a treatment standpoint or medication or shots or things like that. We’ve tried everything we can to try to get the pain out of there and put it at a tolerable level. Just nothing’s worked right now.

Detroit’s rotation is a mess right now and the Tigers have lost six of their last eight games despite playing the lowly Royals and Blue Jays, but ultimately they’ll probably limp into the playoffs with or without Washburn. And once there the Tigers can take advantage of the drawn-out postseason schedule to lean heavily on Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Rick Porcello in the rotation and Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, and Ryan Perry in the bullpen.
Washburn has been a complete bust and Detroit has just the 10th-best record in baseball at 77-67, but barring a total collapse they’re headed to the playoffs and have the top-end talent to make a deep run once their lack of rotation depth is no longer a major factor.

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.