The Astros traded first baseman Lance Berkman to the Yankees on Friday night for right-hander Mark Melancon and infield prospect Jimmy Paredes. Berkman went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his debut as the Yanks’ new designated hitter on Saturday, but most people like the fit and believe he will be plenty productive for the 27-time World Series champs as they try for their 28th. Of course, everyone has a different opinion, and that’s why we play this “What They Are Saying About…” game.
- As Craig pointed out early Saturday morning, SI.com’s Jeff Pearlman thinks that Berkman is not “meant for New York” because he is an “off-the-charts right-winger” and because he has spent most of his adult life in the state of Texas. Of course, that has nothing to do with baseball and it seems like political conversations can be easily avoided in a major league locker room.
- Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News writes that the Yankees’ trade deadline moves, including the additions of Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, scream of “insecurity.” Lupica calls them “sidebars” to Roy Oswalt, who he thinks would have been the real catch.
- FanGraphs’ David Golebiewski thinks that Berkman’s production at the plate “should pick up” in the cozy confines of the new Yankee Stadium, “though not to the level of his glory days.” No surprise there. He is 34, after all.
- Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle says that the Berkman trade “put an end to the Astros as they were known to half a generation of fans.” He’s probably right, and it’s hard to see that as a bad thing. The ‘Stros got younger this trade deadline and they also shrunk their payroll — two things that needed to be done in order to ensure a quality future.
- Joseph Pawlikowski of the Yankees blog River Ave. Blues notes that Berkman has “gotten better from May through July,” and is now hitting with more power while also drawing more walks. If he can play to his full potential, Pawlikowski writes, Berkman may be “the complete package in New York: a lefty who can spray the ball the other way but still take it over the short porch.”
The new Yankees DH is batting .242/.367/.430 on the season with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 302 at-bats. He had a .221/.388/.494 batting line in the month of July. The Yankees, meanwhile, are two games ahead of the Rays in the American League East with a MLB-best 66-37 record.
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.