On one night, Halladay shows why he's the best


You hate to base anything on one game.

Especially in a sport like baseball, where David Eckstein can be a World Series MVP. Where Craig Counsell can be the guy at the bottom of the dogpile after scoring the title-clinching run. Where Don Larsen, a journeyman pitcher with a career record of 81-91, can become the only pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game in the World Series.

But in one game on Wednesday night, Roy Halladay showed why he is the best pitcher in baseball.

Felix Hernandez? Brilliant. CC Sabathia? A strong, tough workhorse. David Price? A dazzling, rising star. But for all the attention those three have garnered in the contentious AL Cy Young debate, none of them would have a prayer if it were simply the MLB Cy Young. Halladay would own it.

Unlike Larsen in 1956, Halladay didn’t catch lightning in a bottle on Wednesday night. He simply did what he always does: carve up bats and mow down hitters. It’s almost boring how efficiently the right-hander can dominate from the mound. This is nothing new for Halladay, who already has a Cy Young award (2003) and seven All-Star appearance on his resume, and who threw a perfect game back in May of this season. The difference is that after 13 seasons in the big leagues, he finally got the chance to show it on the biggest of stages. In his first playoff start.

There were a couple of scary moments on Wednesday night. Jayson Werth made a nice catch to rob Travis Wood in the third inning. Jimmy Rollins made a pair of rangy plays to chase down grounders from his shortstop position. And Carlos Ruiz made perhaps the toughest play of the night, gunning down Brandon Phillips on a tough-angle throw from his knees for the final out.

But for the most part Halladay dominated, painting the corners with filthy breaking balls and fastballs that darted and dove like … well, like breaking balls. His stuff was so electric that Reds MVP candidate Joey Votto was moved to say it was “like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”

Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera was so frustrated that he blamed the umpire, claiming Halladay was “getting every pitch.” Sorry Orlando but the evidence suggests otherwise: of Halladay’s 104 pitches, only one of them was erroneously called a strike.

The day before the game, Halladay said he wasn’t going to change anything in preparing for his first postseason start. And why should he? His work ethic and preparation are legendary, his attitude laudable, his talent unmatched.

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com that “the only time I worry about Roy Halladay is if he was stuck in traffic.”

Unfortunately for the Reds, Halladay made it to the park in plenty of time, and he made the night his own. He didn’t catch lightning in a bottle, he was already keeping it there. And on Wednesday night it was unleashed it for the world to see.

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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.