Scenes from Spring Training: Boppin’ around the Indians and the Reds

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The Reds and Indians share the Goodyear complex.  The team clubhouses and practice fields are about a half mile down the road from the ballpark. Neither the Reds nor the Indians take their BP or infield in the main park, even on game day, so I’ve spent most of my morning driving and walking long distances around the joint.

It’s quite new — it opened in 2009 — so it’s a lot like the hella-complex out in Salt River Fields in terms of its modernity and conveniences and sheer space.  It does lack that high-polish shine of Salt River, however, and I think in some ways this is a good thing. I still have this lingering feeling that the clubhouses in Salt River are too comfortable. This place seems like a nice balance between the spartan locker rooms of the old places and the VIP lounge-feel the Diamondbacks enjoy.

Or maybe it makes no difference. For what it’s worth, my observation of the Indians’ clubhouse today was that it was young and loose and fun. If the Indians are going to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season, no one has told them about it.  Especially Carlos Santana who, like Pablo Sandoval the other day, was bopping around the place with his headphones on, shirt off, singing and dancing like no one was looking. Must be a catcher/corner infielder thing.

From there I moved a quarter mile further down the road to the Reds’ place. By the time I got there they had left the clubhouse and had made their way out to the practice fields. I stood against a fence near where they were playing long toss.  Ryan Hanigan missed one and it hit me on the arm on one hop. Amateur hour, starring Calcaterra. I may or may not have heard a chuckle from the guy standing next to Hanigan.

That aside — and I can’t talk about it anymore on the advice of my attorney (Ow! Ow! The pain! The suffering!) — the Reds workouts were fun.  Dusty Baker was loose and joking. The Reds beat guys — including Mark Sheldon of and John Fay of the Cincy Enquirer — were nice dudes.  The coaches and the team employees were all cool.  Just a relaxed bunch.  But effective. I couldn’t tell you what makes for a crisp set of infield drills vs. a not-so-crisp set, but Baker clapped his hands and yelled “good infield, good infield” after it was over.

Then it was back to the ballpark.  On the way there I decided to study this statue that sits outside in some detail:

I don’t know either.  The plaque at its base says that it’s called “The Ziz,” by Donald Lipski. It also says it’s “named for the giant mythological bird.”  Here’s an explanation of the mythological bird. It’s something out of Jewish mythology. Annie Savoy taught me, however, that there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and 108 stitches on a baseball, so at least as far as this statue is concerned I’m all kinds of confused, theologically speaking.

Well, not too concerned, for I have perfected Zen:

Sorry to do that again. It just seemed right. And no, that stuff on my shoe was not anything intended for Dusty Baker. It’s wet warning track clay. I can think of nothing I’d rather have sticking to the bottom of my shoe.

An hour or so until game time.

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.