The Texas Rangers tied a postseason record when they issued 12 intentional walks last October. Some worked out, but overall, the Rangers likely would have upped their chances of winning the World Series had they just avoided the strategy entirely.
Which seems to be what Ron Washington is doing this year. The Rangers have played 29 games this season without issuing a single intentional walk. And, for what it’s worth, they’re currently 19-10 on the season with the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.02.
Of course, Washington last year didn’t start going crazy with the intentional walks until the postseason. His team issued 21 during the regular season. Only the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Brewers issued fewer. Still, the complete absence of intentional walks this year seems like a philosophy change. At last year’s pace, his team would have issued 4 IBBs so far this season.
The Rangers are the only team without an intentional walk handed out this season. The White Sox have issued just one, with the Diamondbacks, Mets and Twins right behind at two apiece. Manager Ozzie Guillen’s Marlins lead the way in intentional walks at 20, with the Padres (13) and Yankees (12) next on the list.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
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.