The last couple of years I’ve done first-third awards at the end of May, handing out Rookie of the Years, Cy Youngs and MVPs at the end of May based on what had happened 54 or so games in.
This year, I’m going to call one a little early: Zack Greinke will be the first-third Cy Young in the NL.
Greinke has looked terrific right since the start of the spring, and he was especially exceptional in Saturday’s season debut, shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings. He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven.
The Greinke we’re seeing now looks a whole lot like the one who won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. He ended that year with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. The two years since have been modest disappointments, as he finished with a 4.17 ERA in his last year in K.C. and a 3.83 ERA in his first in Milwaukee, but he did strike out a career-best 10.5 batters per nine innings last season, showing his stuff was intact.
Whether he’ll keep it together for the whole year remains to be seen. He has plenty of incentive, this being his walk year, but Greinke seems to look at the world a bit differently than most of the rest of us and his results haven’t always matched his stuff. I’ll trust him to keep it going for a couple of months anyway. For the full year, I think I’d still rather take my chances with Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.
The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.
Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.