Jordan Zimmermann spent some time as the NL ERA leader this season, and while he did have a hiccup in August, he bounced back to go 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his final five starts of the season. Overall, he was 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA that ranked seventh in the league.
Which is all quite impressive. What Zimmermann hasn’t been able to do, though, is beat the Cardinals. He entered Monday’s outing 0-2 with a 9.12 ERA in five career starts against them, and he proved no better in the Game 2 loss, giving up five runs in three innings before being removed.
The Cards did most of their damage in the second, collecting four straight hits with no outs to score two runs. They later got an RBI groundout and an RBI single, and the four-run rally only ended when Jon Jay was thrown out trying to take second on his hit.
Zimmermann’s success these last two years is partly predicated on his ability to pitch out of jams. In 2012, the league batted .288 with 11 homers in 434 at-bats against him with the bases empty. That dropped to .198 with seven homers in 308 at-bats with runners on and .163 with one homer in 172 at-bats with RISP. In 2011, he was much better with the bases empty (.245, 7 HR) but also lights out with RISP, not allowing a single homer in 111 at-bats.
Of course, that didn’t hold up today. In 32 starts this season, Zimmermann had allowed a total of one hit with runners on first and third and one hit with runners on second and third. The Cardinals had hits in both of those situations in back-to-back at-bats today.
Credit St. Louis for staying aggressive and not letting Zimmermann get ahead in the count. Their four hits with men on base in the second inning came on counts of 0-0, 3-1, 1-1 and 1-0. I doubt they’ve discovered any special recipe for beating Zimmermann, but they do seem to have the right approach against him when he’s in trouble.
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.