Pete Hodges presents our NLCS Game 6 recap in which the Chicago Cubs clinched their first World Series berth in 71 years.
Down three games to two, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in a tight spot. But they were turning to the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. Afterall, when they needed to be dug out of a hole in Game 4 in the NLDS, Kershaw came to the rescue. He then literally saved the game in Game 5, sending his team to the next round. Then in Game 2 of the NLCS, he masterfully stifled Chicago’s offense for seven innings in a 1-0 victory. In Game 6 – one wil away from the World Series,, the Cubs countered with a Cy Young candidate of their own: Kyle Hendricks: the Northsiders’ youngest starter.
In the top of the first, Andrew Toles was first-pitch swinging and shot a ground ball through the right side of the infield. A Corey Seager grounder to second base on the next pitch erased Toles, as well as eliminated the likely NL Rookie of the Year. Justin Turner then lifted a fly ball to right, ending the inning.
Kershaw did not get off to a rousing start as he was greeted to the ‘friendly confines’ by a leadoff double by Dexter Fowler. Likely NL MVP Kris Bryant then drove in the center fielder with a single. Anthony Rizzo stepped into the box and laced a line drive to Toles – who dropped the ball. The error allowed Rizzo to reach second and Bryant to advance to third. With no outs and men on second and third, Kershaw finally recorded his first out of the night on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist – but it increased the Cubs lead 2-0. Rizzo advanced to third, but that is as far as he would make it as the lefty retired Javier Baez and Willson Contreras to end the inning.
Josh Reddick reached via an error in the next half inning for the visitors but he was picked off of first, keeping Hendricks’ top of the second inning a relatively easy affair. Kershaw’s second inning began exactly as the first, with a leadoff double – this time by Addison Russell. The shortstop then advanced to third on an Albert Almora ground out to the right side. He then watched Hendricks strike out on seven pitches. Fowler again made solid contact against the Dodgers star lefty, but the center fielder was caught trying to stretch a single into a double, and was tagged out in a rundown. Before Fowler was tagged, Russell crossed the plate which increased the Cubs lead to 3-0.
Hendricks cruised through a scoreless third, striking out two including his counterpart. In the top of the fourth, Kershaw allowed an Anthony Rizzo double, but did not let the hulking first baseman score.
Perhaps weary of the doubles, Willson Contreras started the bottom of the fourth with a bang, launching a Kershaw slider over the left field wall. The lefty did not allow another ball to leave the infield, but the Cubs led 4-0 after four full innings.
Following another perfect inning by Hendricks, Kershaw looked to follow suit. But after he sat Fowler down looking and forced Bryant to line out to the shortstop, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. The formerly struggling left-handed batter crushed his second postseason homer – making the score to 5-0 and sending the Cubs crowd into a tizzy. Zobrist struck out to end the inning, but the Dodgers ace’s night was over.
Hendricks continued to carve up the Dodgers, including Kershaw’s pinch hitter, Andre Ethier. Closer Kenley Jansen entered the game in the sixth for perhaps his last appearance as a Dodger. He made sure it was a good show as he sat the Cubs down in order, including a strikeout of Addison Russell.
After Hendricks and Jansen traded perfect seventh innings, the Cubs’ righty allowed a one-out single by Reddick and Joe Maddon bounded from the dugout to lift his starter for his closer, Aroldis Chapman. The lefty induced pinch hitter Howie Kendrick to ground into a double play, ending the inning.
Jansen tossed his third perfect inning of relief in the eighth, striking out four of the nine batters he faced.
In the bottom of the ninth, the crowd grew more raucous with each out. Enrique Hernandez replaced Yasmani Grandal and helplessly flailed at strike three. Carlos Ruiz pinch hit for the venerable Chase Utley, and provided hope for the Dodger faithful when he drew a walk. However, Yasiel Puig snuffed that hope out on the first pitch he saw, grounding the ball at shortstop Addison Russell who flipped to second baseman Javier Baez, who then fired to Anthony Rizzo for the 27th out of the game.
The Chicago Cubs are National League Champions and advance to face the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The Cubs talented, young roster is receiving contributions from all over and is demonstrating how they won the most games in MLB during the regular season. Most notably, Anthony Rizzo has become hot lately, smacking extra base hit after extra base hit. The World Series starts Tuesday night, and since the American League won the All-Star Game, Cleveland will host Game One.