The Pirates appeared to hit rock bottom on Wednesday, when they were shutout primarily by a pitcher they gave up on waivers to the Mets prior to the start of the season (Jeremy Hefner pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, before rookie Jeurys Familia finished up). As it turned out, that was still just a warmup.
On Friday evening, the Pirates were no-hit by a guy named Homer. A guy who had one career shutout in 109 major league starts. And you’ll never guess who that had come against. In fact, both of Homer Bailey’s complete games had come versus the Pirates. He’s now 8-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts against the Pirates and 30-31 with a 4.81 ERA in 98 starts against everyone else.
The loss was the Pirates’ 81st of the season, which guarantees they won’t snap their record skid with a winning season. They could still conceivably win five straight and finish at .500 for the first time in 20 years. But, let’s face it, that’s not happening. The Pirates are 6-20 in September after going 11-17 in August.
As for Bailey, he deserves plenty of credit. He fanned 10 and faced one batter over the minimum. His postseason rotation spot was still in doubt as of a couple of weeks ago, but he had moved well ahead of Mike Leake of late even before tonight’s showing. He’s taken advantage of a very weak schedule of late, but 13-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 204 innings is nothing to sneeze at. His no-hitter tonight was the Reds’ first since Tom Browning threw a perfect game in 1988. Incredibly, it was the first no-hitter versus the Pirates since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson threw one in 1971.
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.