Brad Lidge blew a save Saturday for the fourth time in 14 tries, but came back yesterday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 11th save and got a vote of confidence from manager Charlie Manuel:
I’ve definitely got to show him that I’m willing to stay with him and we’ll see what happens. … He definitely wants to prove he’s that man and he can still do it and that he’s good for our team and he can help us and he wants to keep his closer’s role. I feel like we’ve definitely got to give him some time.
That’s a lot of “definitely” in one quote. But wait, there’s more:
Believe me, I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team. I want what’s best for the team. I definitely think he’s got to be better than what he’s been so far. I also feel like, I think at times, I really believe he’s got to save a couple in a row. Today was a good start. Now he’s got to have two or three games in a row and run a clean slate. And then I think he may be all right. Because he’s very capable.
I appreciate the sentiment from Manuel, but since this is basically identical to how things played out with Lidge last season the “we’ve definitely got to give him some time” and “I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team” lines ring particularly hollow.
Philadelphia won the World Series in 2008 while Lidge went 48-for-48 converting saves between the regular season and playoffs, including closing out the decisive Game 5 win over the Rays. Since then he’s blown 15 of 57 save chances while posting a 6.69 ERA in 80.2 innings, serving up 16 homers while allowing opponents to bat .288 with a .508 slugging percentage.
Yes, he’s had some good stretches during that time, both this year and last year, but for the most part he’s been horrible now for two consecutive seasons. When the Phillies were coasting to a division title last year it wasn’t such a huge deal, but now they’re 2.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East and trailing two teams for the Wild Card.
And it’s not as if Manuel lacks options. Jose Contreras has been solid all season with a 3.65 ERA and 40/12 K/BB ratio in 37 innings and Ryan Madson has a 13/0 K/BB ratio in 11.2 innings since returning from the disabled list. Pick one as the new closer, use the other as the primary setup man, and make Lidge earn the job back by actually stringing together some impressive appearances in middle relief, where every ugly outing doesn’t have a chance to cost the Phillies a game.
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.