Buster Posey

Offense’s disappearing act leaves Giants on cusp of elimination


The stunning thing about the Giants’ success this year was the way the offense fueled the team in the second half, even with All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera gone due to suspension.

The Giants ranked third in the NL with 380 runs scored in the second half. Only the Brewers (392) and Nationals (383) were better, and no other team was within 20 runs of San Francisco.

The pitching wasn’t bad either, ranking sixth with 303 runs allowed during the same span. However, considering that AT&T played as a very good pitcher’s park this year, the offense was even better than the raw run total suggests, while the pitching wasn’t quite as good.

Unfortunately, through two games against the Reds, the Giants haven’t gotten a lot of hitting or pitching. Still, it’s the offense that’s been especially disappointing, particularly after the Giants caught a break in Game 1 when Johnny Cueto left in the first. Completely unable to capitalize, the Giants scored just two runs then and were later shut out by Bronson Arroyo and company on Sunday.

Summer acquisition Hunter Pence has been the biggest culprit, racking up dreadful at-bats behind Buster Posey in the order. He’s 0-for-8 so far. The lineup’s first three hitters — Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval — are a combined 3-for-26.

Changes seem unlikely. The two most vulnerable players in the Giants’ order — first baseman Brandon Belt and left fielder Gregor Blanco — have actually looked the best of anyone besides Posey. Belt walked twice Saturday and had the only hit off Arroyo on Sunday. Blanco was 2-for-3 with a walk Saturday. No one else is likely to suddenly take a seat.

The Giants are probably doomed now, but perhaps the change of scenery to Cincinnati will do the team some good. The Giants hit 31 homers and averaged 3.8 runs per game at home this year, compared to 72 homers and 5.1 runs per game on the road.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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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:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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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.