Yesterday the Cardinals sent Felipe Lopez home, releasing the 30-year-old veteran with two weeks remaining on his $1 million contract. The initial spin was that they made the move to create playing time for younger players, but general manager John Mozeliak later admitted that Lopez showing up late for Monday’s game was the final straw:
He was late, and it was not the first time. When you think about what we’re trying to accomplish here, we brought up a lot of young players with our September call-ups, and we wanted to make sure they understand the message we want heard. It really came down to a tipping point and it was either just not play him or allow him to go home.
It was one thing, I think, the coaching staff had been very tolerant of, and they came to a point where they’d had enough. Obviously with two weeks left in the season you would prefer not to have to make these kind of decisions or react in this way, but I understand why we did it. I think it really sends a strong message to the younger players on what our expectations are.
I agree completely with Mozeliak. Lopez certainly isn’t the first chronically tardy baseball player, but when you’re a 30-year-old backup infielder hitting .231 with a .651 OPS showing up late gets you fired. And it should.
Tony La Russa identified himself as Lopez’s “biggest advocate” and was probably largely responsible for the Cardinals bringing him back for a second stint with the team, no doubt because he had fond memories of the .385 batting average he produced over 43 games in 2008. However, even the manager decided he’d had enough of Lopez:
He’s healthy. He’s just not going to get starts and not going to come off the bench. He was told and he said, “OK.” There was no reason for him to be around. He’s had a tough year.
Between his terrible season at the plate, always shaky glove, and ugly exit from St. Louis my guess is that Lopez may have a difficult time securing more than a minor-league contract this offseason.
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.