The Cardinals provided starter Michael Wacha with a big ol’ pile of runs but he sure didn’t need it. The 22-year-old right-hander continued to show poise and dominance with seven shutout innings, out-dueling presumptive NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw in the process. Wacha finished with a line that read: 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K. He lowered his career post-season ERA to 0.43 in 21 innings, and has yet to allow more than one run in any playoff start.
Kershaw wasn’t his usual dominant self, laboring through a third inning in which the Cardinals asserted themselves. They batted around, hitting a trio of run-scoring singles and seeing 48 pitches as they went up 4-0. They put the game out of reach in the fifth inning, scoring five more times to go up 9-0. From there, the Cardinals were counting outs.
Carlos Martinez tossed a perfect eighth inning to bridge the gap to closer Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal retired pinch-hitter Michael Young, Carl Crawford, and Mark Ellis to wrap up the ninth inning and the NLCS to send the Cardinals to the World Series. Molina and Rosenthal met each other halfway between the mound and home plate and embraced before the dugout cleared in jubilation.
The Cardinals will play the winner of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Tigers. Games 1 and 2 of the World Series will be played at an American League park, so the Cardinals will have to wait to purchase their plane tickets. Game 1 opens on Wednesday night, with the Cardinals enjoying four full days of rest.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.