APTOPIX NLCS Giants Phillies Baseball

Cody Ross takes Roy Halladay deep — twice! — as the Giants take Game 1


As is so often the case in life, the anticipation was greater than the reward.

Not that Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum were bad or anything. Just mortal.  Lincecum was off his 14-strikeout form and was hit a bit hard early, but he avoided big trouble. Halladay was nowhere near as sharp as he was against the Reds in the Division Series, obviously, but the falloff seemed stark by comparison, as the Giants beat the Phillies 4-3.

Halladay allowed two home runs to Cody Ross, both on inside fastballs. Did he just have a lapse in concentration when he went back to the same spot he hit when Ross jacked the first one, or could he not throw it where he wanted to?  Whatever the case, in the end, all four Giant runs were charged to Halladay and all three Philly runs went on Lincecum’s ledger. Decent. Maybe even solid from both guys. But not what we had been hoping for all week.

The game remained tight throughout, with no inning ending with one team more than a run ahead of the other. And with a close game like this, you’d expect the little things to make the difference. Two little things that did were (a) the strike zone; and (b) Bruce Bochy’s decision to pinch run for Pat Burrell in the sixth inning.

Home plate umpire Derryl Cousins called a tight zone all night, and one pitch that was called a ball made a big difference. In the top of the sixth inning, Halladay had Pat Burrell 0-2 with two outs and a runner on first base. Halladay threw what he, the crowd and most of us watching at home thought was strike three. But Cousins — as he did a lot of pitchers low in the zone and shaded towards the righthanded batters box — called it a ball. Halladay was obviously miffed, and it may have carried over to the next pitch which Burrell drove to the gap in left scoring Buster Posey. At that point Bruce Bochy pinch ran Nate Schierholtz for Burrell. Many managers with otherwise weak offenses wouldn’t have taken one of their best hitters out of a tight game in the sixth like that, but when Juan Uribe singled in Schierholtz a couple of pitches later, it looked like genius.  It wasn’t genius — that move has hurt the Giants just as much as it has helped this year — but it was good fortune, and Schierholtz’s run ended up being the game winner.

But there would still be three innings before it was ultimately won, and in these three innings came the sort of torture Giants fans have gotten used to late this season. The Giants’ bullpen got six outs in this game, five via strikeout, but it felt much worse than that because Brian Wilson went into deep counts with just about everyone he faced. Bending but not breaking was enough to get the job done tonight, however. What about tomorrow? Good question, as Wilson threw 33 pitches in Game 1, meaning that Jonathan Sanchez probably needs to go deep and the rest of the Giants’ bullpen will need to step up in Game 2.

But it’s a good problem to have if you’re the Giants. Who, as they head to their hotel tonight, can tell themselves: “one ace down, two to go.”

Report: Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen could return to the Dodgers in 2017

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With their 2016 season and 11-game playoff run in the books, the Dodgers are refocusing their attention on the upcoming 2017 season. Two outstanding performers, third baseman Justin Turner and right-handed closer Kenley Jansen, are on the cusp of free agency heading into the offseason. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Dodgers intend to make qualifying offers to both Turner and Jansen, but may not be prepared to go the distance to keep both of them on the 2017 roster.

Turner finished his third season in Los Angeles with a .275/.339/.493 batting line and a career-best 27 home runs, riding a hot streak that made him one of the most productive players on the Dodgers’ squad this October. He started in all 11 games of the NLDS and NLCS, engineering a .286 average and two home runs — one of which was the difference-maker in a 4-3 win during Game 1 of the NLDS. His glove has become a much-needed asset within the Dodgers’ organization as well, as he currently ranks sixth among qualified third basemen with seven Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and second with a 14.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2016.

While Turner’s production rate suggests that he’s made a full recovery from the microfracture procedure he underwent in 2015, the Dodgers appear to have reservations about the 31-year-old’s age. Heyman indicated that the veteran infielder prefers to stay in Los Angeles, but the chances of the Dodgers jumping into a fierce bidding war appear to be low for the time being.

Jansen, on the other hand, is expected to incur more interest from the club. The right-hander commanded a 1.83 ERA and 9.45 K/BB rate through 68 2/3 innings in the regular season and was instrumental in closing the door on five wins during the postseason. His 3.2 fWAR performance in 2016 made him the most valuable reliever in the major leagues, eclipsing fellow standouts like the Indians’ Andrew Miller and the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman. Assuming the Dodgers are as serious about retaining Jansen as they were about pursuing Chapman during the 2015 offseason, the 29-year-old closer should stand a decent chance of returning to Los Angeles for another season.

Should the Dodgers fail to match an offer levied to either Turner or Jansen, they’ll receive compensation in the form of unprotected draft picks.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated 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 Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.