NLCS Giants Phillies Baseball

Final thoughts on the NLCS and our first peek ahead to the World Series


We’re going to have plenty of time between now and Wednesday night to break down the Rangers vs. the Giants. For now, some general impressions and observations, both of last night’s NLCS clincher and the upcoming World Series:

  • Jonathan Sanchez’s third inning meltdown in which he walked Placido Polanco, plunked Chase Utley and then sparked the little pushing shoving thing may have been the best thing that happened to the Giants all night. Sanchez can be good, but when he’s bad, he’s really bad, and he looked bad last night. If he doesn’t lose his head like he did, maybe Bochy leaves him in. But he was obviously rattled, and replacing him with Affeldt, Bumgarner and Lopez ended up being the key to the game. The Phillies couldn’t touch ’em;
  • Ryan Howard’s  final strikeout is going to stick in Philly fans’ craws all winter. The fact that his $125 million extension doesn’t kick in until [gulp] 2012 is going to stick in it even longer;
  • I didn’t have a strong rooting interest here, but as I watched each game of the NLCS I definitely found myself pulling for the Giants. As a result, I was happy that they won Game 6. The only real downside to it: no Game 7 tonight. Because remember, no matter who you’re rooting for, more baseball is always better than less baseball;
  • The storylines to this World Series are many, but the one I like the best so far is that Bengie Molina may very well be in line to collect a World Series share no matter who wins. He was beloved by his Giants teammates before the trade, and it’s common for someone to get their postseason cut even if they left the team before the season ended. Maybe there’s a rule against it here. Maybe Molina will just give it to charity anyway. Still: very cool. Or at least it will be until Buck and McCarver start beating it into the ground once the Series starts;
  • You’re going to hear a lot about the low TV ratings this World Series is going to bring in the coming days. And it may bring low ratings. I don’t care and if you care at all about baseball, neither should you. Warrant and Creed sold more albums than the Pixies and Pavement ever did and the popularity of the former doesn’t diminish the greatness of the latter in any way. This is an evenly matched series pitting two teams with a bevy of interesting and exciting players against one another, many of whom aren’t all that well-known by the general public. If people don’t watch, that’s their loss. Besides, many of the same people who will be wringing their hands over the ratings are the same people who wring their hands over the Yankees or the Red Sox being in it all the time. Some people complain about everything;
  • As for the series — which, again, we’ll certainly be breaking it down more in the coming days — I’m left with a strong first impression that the Rangers are going to take it. They have the best pitcher going in Cliff Lee, the much, much better offense and the better defense as well. Predicting baseball is a sucker’s game so I won’t do it, but I think Texas looks decidedly stronger;

I guess the last question is whether I and other non-partisans will develop a rooting interest here. Like I said above, both teams are likable, so in some ways I’m just rooting hard for baseball here in a way I probably haven’t for several years. Really, I pick some reason to either love or hate a World Series team every year. For example, last year I rooted for the Phillies because I can’t bring myself to root for the Yankees in any situation. In 2007 it was the Rockies because to hell with Red Sox Nation. In 2006 it was the Tigers because of ancient Tigers DNA in the recesses of my body and my distaste for Tony La Russa. You get the idea.

Here, though, I can’t identify a strong reason to pull for either team over the other. I’m willing to take arguments in either direction.

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’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.