Reds winging it with Micah Owings

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owings throwing.jpgThe Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jon Fay points out that the Reds seemingly had the perfect chance to deploy their pinch-hitter/middle reliever Micah Owings in Monday’s Opener. It had become clear during the top of the fifth that Aaron Harang wouldn’t be coming back out for another inning, and his spot was due up to start the bottom of the inning. With the Reds down 4-2, it would have been a fine time to let Owings hit and then hopefully pitch a couple of innings.
Instead, the Reds chose to hit Miguel Cairo (who grounded out) and pitch Mike Lincoln (who allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings). Owings ended up never appearing as a hitter or a pitcher in the 11-6 loss to the Cardinals.
Still, I’m not going to rail against Dusty Baker again here. Baker certainly could have gone to Owings off the bench, but the risk there is that he might not have been ready to pitch to start the sixth.
The right idea probably would have been to start warming him up when Harang let a couple of guys reach in the fifth. But then Owings would have had to come in from the pen to hit. If he made an out or homered, then everything like would have been fine, as he likely would have been left with at least another five minutes or so to complete his warmup. If he had reached base, though, the Reds almost certainly would have had to warm up another reliever to bring in to start the sixth and Owings would have been lost for the game.
It’s a difficult situation, as Owings is still a pitcher first and a hitter second. The Brewers had some success with Brooks Kieschnick back in 2003 and ’04, but he was thought of as a hitter first and then a pitcher. Kieschnick was involved in a decision just four times in 74 career relief appearances and three of those were extra-inning games.
Owings has more ability than Kieschnick did on the mound and probably at the plate as well. The Reds are going to rely on him a bunch in the sixth and seventh innings, particularly in situations like Monday when they’re down by one or two runs.
Unfortunately, that means the offense is going to take a backseat, at least unless Owings fights his way back into the rotation at some point. Owings, who sports a .300/.331/.547 line with eight homers in 170 major league at-bats, will hit when his spot is due up, but it’ll be an awful lot of trouble to try to arrange pinch-hitting appearances for him beforehand.

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.