I want the record to reflect that I have not trolled Philly fans all day. As a 1990s Braves fan I learned the hard way that awesome rotations aren’t always enough and that six months of brilliance can be erased pretty damn quickly once your depth advantage is reduced due to the nature of playoff baseball. It stinks, but it’s baseball life.
Now, don’t mistake my lack of trolling Philly fans for me rooting for them or something. I mean, I’m not rooting against them either, but it would certainly make life more interesting around here if Philly lost. After being informed by so many that the season should have just been suspended and the Phillies named World Series champs the day after the Cliff Lee signing I would certainly look forward to the post-NLDS loss spin should it occur.
That may be academic though. Why? Because for all of the issues with the offense recently and the anything can happen nature of an elimination game, I keep coming back to one thing. Or one man, really: Roy Halladay. He pitches tonight. And he’s pretty much God when he gets five days of rest, which is what he has now. Here’s Corey Seidman over at Phillies Nation:
Halladay has made 84 career starts on five days rest. He has a .714 winning percentage in those games and an ERA (2.59) almost one full run better than on normal rest (3.42). An extra-rested Halladay has held opponents to a batting average 22 points lower than usual and a slugging percentage 44 points lower. In such games, his opponents’ OPS is 15 percent worse.
You can’t predict baseball. Especially not playoff baseball. But for the Cardinals to overcome that tonight, they’re going to have to play out of their minds.
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.