MINNEAPOLIS, MN — In a season where offense has been hard to come by, the hitters weren’t all that fooled in the 2014 All-Star Game. At least not early on. And heck, even if they were, word on the street was that some pitchers were throwing meatballs to some hitters on purpose, so it’s hard to know what to take away from this one. We can say this much for absolute certain: the A.L. beat the N.L. 5-3.
Well, obviously we can take all of the Jeter stuff away. In an age when simplicity and dignity are often secondary concerns, Jeter’s exit from the Midsummer Classic was very welcome indeed. No speeches. No excessive stoppages of play. The tributes — at least the ones we could see in the ballpark — did not skew maudlin and treacly. It was much like we saw in that Nike commercial the other day: a lot of hat-tipping and nodding and that felt right.
But he was not named the MVP, contrary to what so many thought would happen no matter how he did. Rather, the MVP Award went to Mike Trout. Who, unlike was the case the past couple of years, won it thanks in part to the superior numbers even if he didn’t have the superior story.
As for the game itself, the Americans struck with three early thanks to Trout tripling in Jeter and Miguel Cabrera blasting one over the fence in the first. The Nationals struck back in the second thanks to back-to-back doubles by Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy, who is second in the National League in doubles with 32 so far, doubled again in the fourth to plate Dee Gordon and tie it up at three. Mike Trout struck again with an RBI double in the fifth which also advanced Alexei Ramirez to third. Ramirez then scored on a Jose Altuve sacrifice fly to make it 5-3, American League.
At that point things went the way they always tend to go at the All-Star Game these days: constant substitutions, an increasingly scary assortment of fresh relief pitchers who know they have two days off after this and a lot of shaky defense. No one broke through for anything after the fifth. The one nice thing from the tail end of the game was John Farrell giving Minnesota Twin — and Minnesota native — Glen Perkins the ninth inning. Perkins set the N.L. down 1-2-3 for the save.
Some random facts:
- Jeter ends his All-Star Game career 13 for 27. It was his third All-Star Game with multiple hits, having done so in 2000 and 2004 when he went 3 for 3.
- Lucroy’s two doubles ties an All-Star record. It’s one held by many, as nine dudes have done it overall, but Lucroy joins Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Paul Konerko, Damian Miller (really?!), Ernie Banks, Ted Kluszewski, Joe Medwick and Al Simmons in that club.
- Adam Wainwright — who maybe shouldn’t have started! — gave up three runs in the first inning. In 19 starts this year he allowed just four first inning earned runs total. Of course, in those 19 starts he wasn’t facing multiple potential first-ballot Hall of Famers like Jeter, Cabrera and Trout.
- Mike Trout is loving life in All-Star Games. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI here and is 4 for 7 with two doubles and a triple in his three All-Star Game appearances. Now he’s the MVP.
But the only stat that actually counts — at least, the only one we’re told to say counts — is the win. Which goes to the A.L. And, along with it, home field advantage in the World Series for the A.L. pennant winner.
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: