Phillies

MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

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MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.

Lineup shuffle
Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.

Seen
Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

Phillies shouldn't trade top prospects for Manny Machado

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Phillies shouldn't trade top prospects for Manny Machado

The Phillies have been connected to Manny Machado for a while and will continue to be with the Orioles superstar entering the final year of his contract.

As Jim Salisbury pointed out Sunday, the Phillies have the depth to try to swing a deal for Machado at some point over the next year. 

Could it happen sooner rather than later?

Orioles beat writer Roch Kubatko of MASN reported Monday that the Orioles "covet" Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez and also like Scott Kingery.

The Phillies are very high on both prospects. Sanchez is a potential future ace, and Kingery is a potential opening day infielder for the Phillies in 2018. It would seem highly unlikely the Phils would trade one or both for Machado, even if they knew Machado would re-sign here. Why not just wait it out and try to sign Machado next winter when you wouldn't have to give up Sanchez or Kingery?

It would make a lot of sense for Baltimore to trade Machado over the next eight months. The O's have next to no chance of re-signing him so getting something in return is the way to go. As Kubatko points out, if Machado is traded, his new team would have a 72-hour window to sign him to an extension.

Another name mentioned in the report is Freddy Galvis, who is also a free agent after 2018. Obviously, Galvis is not netting you Machado, but it's a more reasonable starting point for a player who is effectively on a one-year deal.

Could a package involving two of Galvis, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez entice the O's? It's not an equivalent to Machado from a talent standpoint, but a player with theoretical upside like Franco might move the needle a bit, especially if Baltimore would also be adding a few other consistent pieces.

The Phillies have a lot of young depth, both in the minors and at the major-league level — players who could be appealing to another team but who probably wouldn't be sorely missed here. One of Andrew Knapp or Cameron Rupp would be expendable. So too, obviously, would be a couple middle infielders. Tom Eshelman has had impressive minor-league results, but will he succeed at the major-league level? Roman Quinn has enough upside to attract other clubs, but enough injury questions to get the Phillies thinking. Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Tommy Joseph ... all of these players could be used as sweeteners in the right trade.

The news will be fast and furious coming out of the winter meetings this week in Orlando, always one of the most exciting times on the baseball calendar.

For Phillies, a reunion with Pat Neshek makes sense

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For Phillies, a reunion with Pat Neshek makes sense

ORLANDO — The Phillies' bullpen showed signs of coming together late last season. Over the final 33 games, the team's relievers put together a 2.54 ERA. Only the Cleveland Indians' bullpen had a better ERA (2.41) over that span.

Despite those improvements, general manager Matt Klentak has arrived at these winter meetings intent on strengthening that unit. Sources say the club would like to add one or two veterans to the bullpen and that team officials have discussed a reunion with free agent Pat Neshek. Sources say the Phils have also expressed interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

The Phils would also like to add a starting pitcher. That could come in a trade, possibly involving Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis.

Bringing back Neshek would make a lot of sense. Klentak has an affinity for the right-hander, and why not? In his first two offseasons as Phillies GM, Klentak added a number of veterans designed to serve as stabilizing forces as the team navigated a rebuild. The Phils got little from pitchers Charlie Morton and Clay Buchholz; both suffered season-ending injuries early in their time with the club. The Phils got mixed results (and no high draft pick) from Jeremy Hellickson in a season and a half with the club. Howie Kendrick contributed nicely but was often hurt. Michael Saunders flopped. Peter Bourjos was somewhere in the middle.

Among Klentak's big-league pickups, Neshek has been the one overwhelming success. Klentak acquired the side-arming reliever in a salary dump deal (the Phils added his $6.5 million salary) from Houston in the fall of 2016 and Neshek delivered a stellar season in 2017. He pitched in 43 games (40⅓ innings) for the Phillies and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. At the trade deadline, the Phils turned Neshek into three prospects by sending him to Colorado, where he was a teammate of McGee's. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62⅓ innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Why wouldn't the Phillies want a guy like that back to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017?

Given Neshek's success last season — he was the Phillies' lone All-Star — and his track record, he would probably require a two-year contract. But even at 37, Neshek has shown the durability that would make that a sound investment, especially if there was not a no-trade clause. That way, the Phils could deal Neshek for young talent if they were not in the race. And, of course, they could hang on to him if they were in the race.

Matt Klentak has veteran relievers on his wish list and Pat Neshek makes sense.

Again.