We're all tied up: Giants grab share of NL West lead

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We’re back at zero. That’s where we stand after Friday night, as the Giants defeated the Padres 1-0 to move into a virtual tie for first place in the National League West. This is the first time that the Padres haven’t had sole possession of first place since they were a half-game out on June 16.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for the Giants, but they’ll take it. Friday’s starter Jonathan Sanchez tossed five shutout innings, but he did it by walking seven. That’s a lot, even for the major league leader in walks. Padres’ starter Clayton Richard was actually more impressive, holding the Giants to just two hits over six-plus innings, but his plunking of Aubrey Huff to begin the seventh ended up being the critical play of the ballgame.

After Richard was pulled for Luke Gregersen, Huff stole second base on a strikeout of Pat Burrell. He then made an ill-advised dash to third base on a ground ball hit by Jose Guillen to shortstop Miguel Tejada. Fortunately for Huff, he somehow managed to beat the throw. Chase Headley then attempted to turn a double-play on a groundball hit by Juan Uribe, however Nate Schierholtz, who was pinch-running for Guillen, delivered a brilliant takeout slide of David Eckstein, giving Uribe just the extra second he needed to cross the first base bag and allow the first and only run to score from third base. I believe that’s called manufacturing.

Schierholtz only has four at-bats this week, but he is partially responsible for helping the Giants win two games. In addition to Friday’s takeout slide, he also connected for a two-run double in Monday’s 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks.

I’m not going to bore you much more with my recap, but here’s where we are in the NL West:

Padres – 79-61 (.564) 22 games left
Giants – 80-62 (.563) 20 games left
Rockies – 77-64 (.546) – 2 1/2 games back – 21 games left

Yes, the Padres and Giants are now tied atop the NL West, but don’t sleep on those Rockies. They begin a three-game series with the Padres at Coors Field on Monday. The thing is, with two more games against the Giants this weekend, the Padres could be in second place by then.

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 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.