Backed by 11 strikeouts over seven innings from AL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer, the Tigers topped the Athletics 3-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS at O.Co Coliseum. The two teams will meet for Game 2 this evening at 9:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.
Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:
Already down one game in the series, the Athletics will turn to rookie right-hander Sonny Gray. A first-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old right-hander has been mighty impressive since making his major league debut in July, posting a 2.67 ERA and 67/20 K/BB ratio over 64 innings in 10 starts and two relief appearances. We may have seen the starting rotation arranged differently if A.J. Griffin was healthy, but Athletics manager Bob Melvin wanted to give Gray the start at home as opposed to Comerica Park.
After facing Scherzer in Game 1, things don’t get any easier for the A’s tonight, as Justin Verlander will be on the hill for Detroit. While Verlander had somewhat of a down season for his lofty standards, posting a 3.46 ERA in 34 starts, he finished September by striking out 22 batters in 12 scoreless innings over his final two starts. Not good news for an A’s team which set a franchise playoff record by striking out 16 times in Game 1.
As for the Athletics’ lineup, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group speculates that Daric Barton could be benched for Game 2 while Brandon Moss starts at first base and Seth Smith serves as the designated hitter. Barton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Game 1 and had a pair of defensive miscues.
There probably won’t be any major changes for the Tigers. Andy Dirks made the start in left field last night, but it’s possible we’ll see Jhonny Peralta out there there for Game 2. Then again, O.co Coliseum can be pretty tricky to navigate, so it might not be the best setting to experiment. Miguel Cabrera was removed for defensive purposes in the eighth inning last night, but he told Paul Hagen of MLB.com after the game that he “felt good.” He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single before exiting.
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.