In previewing the Indians during spring training I wrote about how Terry Francona’s previous teams rarely did much running and suggested that “it’ll be interesting to see if the manager adapts to the skill sets he has on hand” in Cleveland.
Michael Bourn was a big part of that, signing with the Indians after stealing an average of 51 bases per season from 2008-2012. This year, however, Bourn has swiped just 19 bases in 101 games while being caught a league-high 10 times and the Indians as a whole rank sixth in the American League in steals despite having plenty of high-steal players on the roster.
I have no idea how much of that stems from Francona’s general mindset regarding stolen bases, but Bourn’s sudden inability to add value as a runner is pretty interesting in the first year of a four-year, $48 million contract. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked Francona about why Bourn isn’t running as much or as effectively, and “in Francona’s opinion pitchers are just paying more attention to Bourn in particular and the running game overall.”
I’m fairly certain that pitchers always paid a lot of attention to Bourn while he was stealing 50-plus bases per season, so that probably qualifies as a non-answer answer.
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.
The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.
Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.