Scenes from Spring Training: Meet The Mets Part 2

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Francoeur Marquis small.jpgAfter walking the grounds I went to the media work room. Same setup as the Winter Meetings, writ-small: tables with outlets and internet connections, a lot of handouts with lineups and player facts written on them, and a bunch of working reporters who looked at me like I was from Mars. I knew most of them though, and as they walked in I kept thinking “I wonder if he read that post I wrote calling him a dumbass that time.”

One of the reporters brought in bagels for everyone. A voice from the back of the room yelled “where the bagles from?”  The reponse “Panera.”  Dejected groans filled the room.  Panera bagels are perfectly edible of course, but even a Midwesterner like me knows that they don’t compare to the real McCoy.  I actually felt kind of sorry for all the New York reporters for having to deal with something so inferior to that which they are used to. It’d be like someone from California trying to give me what they consider to be bratwurst.

As I uploaded pictures and surfed the web, I listened to the New York media chatter. Two guys were discussing Bob Klapisch’s piece about Darryl Strawberry from Saturday. They were convinced that Klapisch included all the bits about Strawberry smoking and his gut and everything as a way of getting back for some dismissive things Straw said to Klapisch during their interview. “Bob’s just killing Darryl,” one of the guys said as he read, “he must have been pissed off.”  A few minutes later one of them looked at his Blackberry and said “Rodriguez is still out with pink eye.  What the f— kind of pink eye lasts three weeks?” Good question. My daughter had pink eye last year. Two days of drops and it was over.

Leaving the media room I walked out onto the field. The Nationals had arrived and were taking batting practice and infield.  Mets players were hanging around.  At one point Jeff Francoeur and Jason Marquis had a mini-Braves reunion. I was surprised to see Ivan Rodriguez taking BP as established veterans don’t usually make road trips in spring training, but there he was hacking away. He obviously didn’t like how it went, though, because as he left the cage he threw his bat towards the dugout. It landed close to a photographer. Pudge gave the “I’m sorry” wave. The photographer gave the “no problem, but if it had hit me I would have sued you and retired, so next time throw it a bit harder” wave in return.

By this time the Mets reporters had assembled in a little circle in front of the Mets dugout. I went to go eavesdrop.  I heard two really good dirty jokes and some stories about guys from New Jersey with bad grammar. Then the subject of Davey Johnson — now an assistant to the GM in Washington — came up. One of the writers said that they heard Johnson might make the trip to the game. An almost hushed reverence came over the four or five of them, and then one of them said “Oh, I hope he comes down, gosh I’d love to see him.”  After dropping f-bombs and ethnic jokes for five minutes, the sudden switch to “gosh” made it feel like I’d entered church or something.  The old writers really love them some Davey Johnson.

After a quick lunch in the media room — questionable chicken and pasta that they actually charged us for rather than provided gratis — it was up to the press box.  After all, there was an actual game to be played yesterday.

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.