White Sox manager Robin Ventura used four pitchers to get through the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox. In retrospect, he sure wishes he saved one or two of them for the 14th inning.
Not willing to extend Daniel Webb past three innings and 59 pitches, Ventura turned to Leury Garcia for the 14th against the Red Sox and saw his infielder give up two runs in what turned into a 6-4 loss.
Garcia hit 88 mph on his first pitch and actually got two quick outs with Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski hacking away. Daniel Nava and Jonathan Herrera were smarter and waited out Garcia, whose velocity quickly waned. After those two walks, Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled a liner down to the right-field line for a decisive two-run double. Dustin Pedroia then grounded out to finish the inning.
Other points of interest from the game:
- The Red Sox were the victims the last time a position player won a game; the Orioles’ Chris Davis beat them with scoreless 16th and 17th innings in a game on May 6, 2012.
- The Red Sox opened the top of the first with three straight hits… and then didn’t have another one until the ninth. Following Xander Bogaerts’ RBI single, John Danks pitched six hitless innings, and none of the White Sox first five relievers gave up hits.
- That run the Red Sox scored was their first in the first inning this year.
- That four-pitcher eighth inning went like this: Scott Downs walked David Ortiz was replaced. Jacob Petricka walked Jonny Gomes and was replaced. Donnie Veal came in and got a ground out, a sac fly that reduced the White Sox’s lead from two runs to one and then issued a walk. Maikel Cleto came in then and issued another walk to lead the bases before getting Bradley to pop up to end the frame. So, four walks and one run for the Red Sox.
- That would have seemingly set up Matt Lindstrom to pitch the ninth with a 3-2 lead. The White Sox, though, are already revisiting the closer situation in light of two early blown saves from Lindstrom. Therefore, Cleto stayed in and was set to get a chance to finish it out. Except Cleto walked the first two batters in the ninth. The second of those walks, to Bogaerts, consisted of exactly two pitches outside of the strike zone.
- Lindstrom took over then, leaving him with what might have been the toughest save chance any closer will see this season: one-run lead, two on, none out and David Ortiz at the plate. Lindstrom got Ortiz, but Jonny Gomes hit a slow roller that went as an infield single and Sizemore followed with a sac fly, tying the game. Lindstrom went on to preserve the tie from there and he stayed in and pitched a scoreless 10th, yet all he got was a blown save for his trouble.
- To clarify: Cleto got a hold despite retiring one of four hitters he faced and giving up a run, and Lindstrom was charged with a blown save despite retiring six of seven hitters and not giving up a run.
- Pedroia had two hits and two walks as Boston’s leadoff man in his return to the lineup. He scored three times, which matches the total the team scored in the two games he missed with a sore wrist.
The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:
- By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
- Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch).
- Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
- Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
- Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
- By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
- The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
- Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
- With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
- If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
- Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.
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: