Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher at Triple-A have continued, so the 25-year-old catcher is now seeing a sports psychologist and Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com describes the various things he’s trying to get over the “yips”:
He uses a timing mechanism–tapping the ball in his glove twice before throwing–to help him. And for the most part, he made strong throws to the mound. But the struggles did creep in at various points during the game. He made some low throws, one-hopping one in the ninth. He threw one ball into center field and another to the second baseman, both with no one on base. …
Saltalamacchia has also altered his grip on the ball. He used to throw with his index and middle fingers wide apart, almost like a splitter. He now has those fingers closer together. Saltalamacchia said he’s trying to keep all of it in mind without overthinking things.
Saltalamacchia is having no issues at the plate, hitting .338 with a .390 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A, so getting over the throwing problems would likely get him back to Texas in a hurry.
I don’t think the organization is going to call me back up until I prove this is over with, and rightfully so. I know I can do it, so I don’t mind talking about it. At first I was like, “Just leave me alone.” But it’s out there and I have to deal with it. What’s frustrating me the most is this is the only thing keeping me from being back in the big leagues. I’m hitting. I’m catching. The only one thing is a simple throw back to the pitcher.
I think it’s a mechanical and mental issue. Once your mechanics change and you don’t have success, you think about it. It’s like you’re on a cliff and you tell yourself not to look down or don’t look at that pink elephant in the corner of the room. No one understands until they go through it themselves.
Texas’ catchers have combined to hit .188 with a .562 OPS that ranks second-worst in the league and Saltalamacchia has already had enough injury hurdles thrown in front of what was once a very promising future, so hopefully he can dispatch with the pink elephant and get his career back on track.
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:
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.