I think the photo just about sums it up. Anyway, because I want there to be a record of all of this after my death (which should occur sometime on Monday or Tuesday at this rate), here’s where we stand:
AL Wild Card: Boston is like that kindly uncle holding out a dollar bill for little Jimmy to take. Except little Jimmy won’t take it for some reason, so the uncle gives it to Bobby instead. The Rays are Jimmy and the Angels are Bobby. Both are two and a half games back. Tune in to HBT Daily later today as Tiffany mocks me about all of this. Because she’s about the only person I know who picked the Angels to go to the playoffs.
NL Wild Card: Boston’s collapse has gotten way more press because they’re Boston, but they friggin’ gained ground on their nearest pursuer yesterday. The Braves, in contrast, are going into their collapse with full gusto. But let’s be clear about something: we do the Cardinals a great disservice when we make this all about the Braves’ collapse. Yes, that’s real and I’m not trying to minimize it at all, but let’s not forget that the Cardinals have won 12 of 14, including a sweep of the Braves not too long ago. A collapse can’t happen in a vacuum. Someone has to capitalize, and the Cardinals are doing just that. San Francisco is still lurking at 3.5 back.
As for the rest:
AL East: Signed, sealed and delivered to the Yankees.
AL Central: The Tigers are busy setting up their playoff roation.
AL West: The Rangers’ magic number is three. But even if they clinch, they have meaningful games against the Angels next week.
NL East: Philly has nothing left to accomplish in the regular season, but arresting that five-game skid would be nice.
NL Central: Brewers’ magic number is three.
NL West: Diamondbacks’ magic number is two.
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.