Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game Two

Dodgers squandered plenty of opportunities against the Braves


Despite making it close, the Dodgers had plenty of opportunities to score but came up empty plenty of times following Hanley Ramirez’s RBI double in the first inning. They couldn’t get the big hit against Braves starter Mike Minor from the second through the sixth innings, nor relievers Luis Ayala or Luis Avilan in the seventh.

Second inning: Juan Uribe lead-off single followed up by Skip Schumaker grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

Third inning: Carl Crawford lead-off single followed up by Mark Ellis grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

Fourth inning: Adrian Gonzalez lead-off single, followed by three consecutive unproductive outs.

Fifth inning: Nothing

Sixth inning: Hanley Ramirez one-out double, advances to third on Yasiel Puig’s infield single, but does not score.

Seventh inning: Skip Schumaker leads off with an infield single, then advances to second on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Young reaches on another infield single. Carl Crawford ends the threat by grounding into a 1-6-3 double play against reliever Luis Avilan.

Ninth inning: A.J. Ellis draws a one-out walk. Dee Gordon pinch-runs for him and immediately attempts to steal second base, but is thrown out by catcher Gerald Laird. To Gordon’s credit, replays showed that second base umpire Bill Miller got the call wrong.

Manager Don Mattingly made things worse in the bottom of the seventh being too mindful of the platoon advantage. With two Braves runners on first and second with two outs, Jose Constanza came to the plate to pinch-hit for Avilan. Constanza finished the regular season with a .516 OPS, not exactly the type of hitter you fear in a big spot. Nevertheless, Mattingly came out to the mound to replace right-handed reliever Chris Withrow with lefty Paco Rodriguez for the platoon advantage. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez countered by pinch-hitting Reed Johnson for Constanza. Mattingly countered by intentionally walking Johnson to bring up Jason Heyward — yes, Jason Heyward — for the platoon advantage. Heyward worked the count to 2-0 in his favor, took a slider for a strike, then drove a second slider back up the middle for a two-run single to put the Braves up 4-1. Bad managing strikes again.

This is not to take anything away from Braves starter Mike Minor, who made pitches when he had to and wasn’t hit particularly hard. Nor is this to take away from the Braves’ bullpen as Avilan made a heck of a play to start that double play in the top half of the seventh and Craig Kimbrel was his usual dominant self. But the Dodgers were their own worst enemy tonight and now send the NLDS to Los Angeles knotted at 1-1.

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.