Winter meetings notes from day two: Giants, Brewers, Astros

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– Giants GM Brian Sabean said there’s no way Bengie Molina would be returning to the team. “That ship has sailed,” he told the San Jose Mercury News.
The Giants don’t want to turn over the job to Buster Posey, so Molina would still make sense if he can’t get a multiyear deal elsewhere. However, the Giants appear to be focused on Yorvit Torrealba or, perhaps, Ryan Doumit.
– The Brewers are close to re-signing free agent right-hander Claudio Vargas, presumably to a one-year deal.
Vargas, a starter for the Brewers in 2007, did a great job in low-leverage situations after being reacquired from the Dodgers on July 31, amassing a 1.78 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. He’ll need to take on a bigger role in next year’s pen, particularly now that Mark DiFelice is expected to miss the season.
– The Nationals have brought back Jerry Owens on a minor league contract, according to’s Bill Ladson.
Owens was the Nationals’ second-round pick in 2003. He was traded to the White Sox for Alex Escobar a year and a half later and hit .262/.319/.305 in 393 at-bats over four seasons for Chicago. He should be Triple-A fodder for the Nats, but perhaps there’s the chance that he’ll make the team as a bench player if Willie Harris is traded.
The Astros have signed eight players to minor league deals with spring training invitations: RHP Roy Corcoran, RHP Ryan Sadowski, RHP Casey Daigle, RHP Gary Majewski, 1B Chris Shelton, INF Drew Meyer, INF Oswaldo Nararro and OF Alex Romero.
If you’re a pitcher and a minor league free agent, the Astros would seem to be a prime team to sign with. Corcoran had a 3.22 ERA in 722/3 innings for the Mariners in 2008 and would seem to be the player here with the best chance of making the Astros out of spring training. Shelton is also deserving of another opportunity, though he’s less likely to get it. He hit .314/.396/.509 for Triple-A Tacoma last season.

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’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.