Justin Upton

The NL All-Star starting lineup will outshine the AL’s


OK, so there hasn’t been any actual All-Star ballot results released yet. That doesn’t mean I can’t do my fun little exercise here. What follows is my best guess at the All-Star Game starting lineups.

National League

CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
LF Justin Upton
RF Bryce Harper
3B David Wright
DH Carlos Gonzalez
C Buster Posey
SS Troy Tulowitzki

Ryan Braun and Paul Goldschmidt would have great cases as the designated hitter, too, but since the lineup is already righty heavy, Gonzalez makes more sense, I think. Shin-Soo Choo will also be a possibility if he keeps this up.

American League

LF Mike Trout
2B Robinson Cano
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
RF Jose Bautista
DH David Ortiz
CF Adam Jones
C Joe Mauer
SS Jhonny Peralta

The top of the American League’s lineup matches up fine with the NL’s, probably even bettering it. But the bottom doesn’t compare. Of course, I’m just guessing at Jones. Trout would seem to be a lock as a starting outfielder, but Bautista and Jones aren’t. Among those who could factor in are Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Torii Hunter and Alex Rios.

The NL also has an unfair advantage here in that it gets to pick its DH, while the AL has to live with whoever is voted on. That’s not a problem if Ortiz stays healthy, but it means Chris Davis, who ranks second in the AL in OPS and RBI and first in homers, gets ripped off. There’s also no place for Evan Longoria.

Shortstop is the real problem. With Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter hurt, Peralta has been the best of the rest, though maybe Elvis Andrus will get voted in over him.

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.