Twins edge Royals, Greinke to stay in AL Central race

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The only way one could tell it wasn’t a postseason game was that the Royals were involved.
With a full Metrodome rocking it its final days, the Twins beat the Royals 5-4 on Saturday to keep the pressure on the Tigers as they play the White Sox tonight.
This was the game the Twins faced long odds to win. Zack Greinke had given up three runs — two earned — in his last six starts, the last being a win over Minnesota last weekend. Nick Blackburn was also pitching well, but as a result of Monday’s rainout, he had to pitch on three days’ rest for the first time in his career today.
Blackburn, though, excelled, and the teams matched zeroes until the sixth. Nick Punto led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a sac bunt and then to third on a groundout. That brought up future AL MVP Joe Mauer in a situation that begged for an intentional walk. Greinke, though, wasn’t having any of it. Mauer got down in the count 0-2, held on and then lined a single to right.
That figured to be the end of it, but Jason Kubel followed with a ground-rule double that ticked off the glove of a sprinting Willie Bloomquist in left field. After a HBP loaded the bases, Delmon Young delivered a three-run double over the head of an awkward Mark Teahen in right field, making it a 4-0 game. It was the first time all year that Greinke had given up more than three runs in an inning.
So, now the Twins could cruise to a win against a punchless Kansas City offense? No, wrong again. Mike Jacobs had a solo homer in the seventh, and Miguel Olivo started the eighth with a double that got Blackburn pulled. Manager Ron Gardenhire smartly brought in lefty Jose Mijares to face Alex Gordon. Mijares had limited left-handed hitters to a .139 average and two homers in 101 at-bats. Gordon was hitting .146 with two homers in 48 at-bats against left-handed pitching.
Gordon, of course, launched a ball over the baggie in right, making it 4-3. The Royals tied it up in the same inning on a double-play ball.
The decisive blow was supplied by Michael Cuddyer in the bottom of the eighth. The Royals let lefty Dusty Hughes face him, even though he’s hit .303 with 14 homers in 165 at-bats against southpaws, and Cuddyer stung a liner to the opposite first for his 31st homer of the year. Joe Nathan went on to pitch a perfect ninth, with some help from Denard Span in right field, for his 47th save.
The Twins are now just a half-game back of the Tigers in the Central race. Rather than bring Justin Verlander back on three days’ rest, Detroit will start rookie Alfredo Figaro tonight against Freddy Garcia and the White Sox.

Report: Kyle Schwarber will return to the Arizona Fall League on Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16:  Injured player Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs is seen in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.

While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.

Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.

Playoff Reset: Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS Game 6

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on the pitcher's mound during game two of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

The Upshot:

We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.

Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.

The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.