From Comcast SportsNetMILWAUKEE (AP) -- An afterthought in early September, the St. Louis Cardinals needed every last win just to reach the postseason. Now, this wild ride is headed to the World Series. "We believe," third baseman David Freese said. "I think that's what you've got to do in this game. We've got a group of guys with some talent, desire, and just a ton of heart." Freese hit a three-run homer in the first and manager Tony La Russa turned again to his brilliant bullpen for seven sturdy innings as St. Louis captured its 18th pennant with a 12-6 victory over the bumbling Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday night. Albert Pujols and the wild-card Cardinals took out the heavily favored Phillies in the first round, then dispatched the division-rival Brewers on their own turf in Game 6 of the NL championship series. "I mean, you could have never known," Pujols said. Freese, often overlooked in a lineup anchored by All-Stars, batted .545 with three homers and nine RBIs to earn series MVP honors. Looking for its second title in six seasons, St. Louis opens the World Series at home Wednesday night with ace Chris Carpenter on the mound against the AL champion Texas Rangers. "Your goal is to win it," Pujols said. "Nobody talks about second place. Everybody talks about who wins it. That's our main goal." Trailing by 10 games in the wild-card race on Aug. 25, the Cardinals surged down the stretch and took advantage of a monumental collapse by Atlanta to win a playoff spot on the final night of the regular season. In a twist of fate, it was Philadelphia that helped them into the postseason by completing a three-game sweep of the Braves. "Improbable, incredible, overwhelming," La Russa said. "This one here has its own mark, because coming from that far back is historic I think. That's what they tell me. And having to win on the road, Philadelphia, these guys." Now, bolstered by a group of no-name relievers who keep answering La Russa's call, the Cardinals are back in the World Series for the first time since beating Detroit in 2006. What a relief! "Well, it was crazy," outfielder Matt Holliday said. "We had a lot of adversity, but we found a way." It was a disappointing end to a scintillating season for Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and the NL Central champion Brewers, who finished with a franchise-record 96 wins, six games ahead of St. Louis. Baseball's best home team collapsed in the NLCS, though, losing twice at Miller Park in an error-filled flop. It was likely Fielder's final game with the Brewers, too. He can become a free agent after the season. "I had to clear the throat once, but it was all right. I love these guys," said Fielder, a first-round draft pick in 2002. "I've been playing with most of them since I was 18. So this organization has been great to me." Rafael Furcal and Pujols hit solo homers off Chris Narveson and St. Louis built a 9-4 lead by the time the bullpen took over for Edwin Jackson in the third inning. The group of Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte allowed two runs the rest of the way. For the series, St. Louis relievers finished 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA over 28 2-3 innings. The biggest scare came when Pujols was shaken up after tagging out Braun in the fifth inning when he fell hard on his right forearm on a close play at first base. The three-time MVP was slow to get up, but stayed in the game. "I got spiked, and then (Rzepczynski) kind of stepped on my right knee, but it was a do-or-die play," Pujols said. "I'm glad, you know, we got the out." The Cardinals needed a shutout from Carpenter to beat the Phillies 1-0 in Game 5 of the NLDS, but took control of this series beginning in Game 2 by jumping out to early leads and letting the bullpen lead the way. La Russa called on his relievers 28 times in the NLCS and Jackson's start was the shortest of the postseason for the Cardinals rotation, which finished the NLCS with a 7.66 ERA. St. Louis became the first team to win a postseason series without a starter reaching the sixth inning, according to STATS LLC. Freese gave his teammates credit while accepting the MVP award. "I wish we could make eight or nine of these and give them to our bullpen. They're the reason why we won this series," he said. Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy all homered for the Brewers, who won a major league-most 57 times at Miller Park this season and four straight in the postseason before losing Game 2 to the Cardinals. It was the two ugly defensive performances that will likely linger for Milwaukee, which committed four errors in a 7-1 loss in Game 5 and added three more in Game 6. "You can't get away with mistakes to them and we made way too many mistakes," manager Ron Roenicke said. The Brewers' biggest hitters -- Braun, Fielder and Weeks -- finished 1 for 12 in Game 6. Fielder, the All-Star game MVP and the reason St. Louis will start at home on Wednesday, received a standing ovation in his final at-bat in the eighth. He grounded out and slowly walked back to the dugout with his head down. Struggling starter Shaun Marcum never really gave Milwaukee a chance and was hurt by defensive plays that weren't ruled errors. In the first, Jon Jay singled with one out and stole second when Weeks couldn't hold onto Lucroy's low throw. Marcum believed he had strike three on Pujols, who ended up walking. Lance Berkman singled for the second time in 18 career at-bats against Marcum to drive in the first run, and center fielder Nyjer Morgan made an ill-advised throw to third that let Berkman reach second. Marcum saved a run by grabbing Holliday's dribbler and flipping it out of his glove to Lucroy to get Pujols at the plate, but Freese homered on the next pitch to make it 4-0 and extend his postseason hitting streak to 10 games. Marcum was finished after the first, ending his postseason 0-3 with a 14.90 ERA. "They were some kind of team in that first inning. We couldn't get away with anything," Roenicke said. "We didn't make good pitches. But we just never had a chance to get into our comfort zone." Furcal homered off Chris Narveson in the second and Pujols hit a drive to left in the third to give St. Louis a 6-4 lead. Holliday then singled, Freese doubled and the Brewers intentionally walked Yadier Molina with one out. Nick Punto hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Allen Craig singled in two more runs off LaTroy Hawkins to make it 9-4. Yuniesky Betancourt's RBI double in the fourth cut the lead to 9-5, but Milwaukee fell apart in the fifth with three errors in a span of two plays. First, Hart bobbled Freese's single in right field, allowing Holliday to reach third. Holliday scored on the next play when third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. committed two errors. He booted Molina's grounder and then flipped the ball out of his glove through Weeks' legs at second. "They outplayed us," Roenicke said. "They're a good team and they outplayed us." Pinch-hitter Adron Chambers' sacrifice fly gave St. Louis an 11-5 lead in the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Braun's groundout cut the lead to 11-6, but the focus was on Pujols when he was slow to get up. La Russa came out to check on his star, who gripped his right forearm and had a brief limp, but stayed in the game. He looked better later, contributing a two-out RBI single in the eighth for the final margin. Jackson allowed Hart and Weeks to lead off the first two innings with homers and Lucroy added a two-run shot to cut the lead to 5-4 in the second. St. Louis answered back with four more runs, keyed when Jackson was pulled for Craig, who delivered his two-run single. Salas caught a break in the third when Jay made a leaping catch of Fielder's drive at the wall in right-center. Jay added another spectacular grab, crashing into the padding in the ninth with Motte on the mound. One out later, the celebration was on. "It's kind of surreal that we're here," Freese said. "But this team deserves what we've been rewarded." NOTES: St. Louis joins the Dodgers and Giants with 18 World Series appearances, second only to the Yankees (40). ... It was Milwaukee's 26th loss at Miller Park this season. Marcum started 13 of those games. ... Furcal has hit six of his nine homers this season against the Brewers. ... Marcum gave up 34 runs over his final 34 innings dating to Sept. 9. ... The Miller Park roof was closed with the game-time temperature 55 degrees and a strong autumn wind blowing throughout the day. Inside, it was 67 degrees.
Call it the White Sox Hitters Revenge Tour.
Last week, Eloy Jimenez provided the single best image of rebuilding progress to date for the White Sox, smashing a game-winning homer in the ninth inning against the Cubs, the team that traded him, at Wrigley Field, the park he always assumed would be the one he'd call home as a big leaguer.
Well, a week later, Yoan Moncada exacted similar revenge on the team that traded him.
In the first of a three-game series between the White Sox and Boston Red Sox, Moncada took a second-inning pitch out to left field, depositing a ball over the top of the Green Monster for a tie-breaking two-run homer at Fenway Park.
Yoán vs. The Monster. pic.twitter.com/H2lyOupxjG— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 24, 2019
The Red Sox traded Moncada — as part of a package that also included Michael Kopech and Luis Basabe — to the White Sox during the Winter Meetings in 2016 in the deal that jump-started the South Side rebuilding project.
Between signing with the Red Sox in 2015 and making his White Sox debut in 2017, Moncada spent time as the No. 1 overall prospect in the game. After a disappointing first full season in the majors last year, Moncada is having a much better go of things in 2019, bringing a .295/.347/.509 slash line into Monday night, when he belted his 13th home run of the season.
Of course, the Red Sox are pretty happy with their return in that trade, Chris Sale, who in addition to being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two and a half seasons got the championship-clinching out in the World Series last October.
But part of the reason the White Sox future is so bright is the return they got in the Sale trade. And one of those players got his revenge, Eloy style, on Monday night.
With each appearance that Craig Kimbrel makes in Iowa, the more anticipation for his arrival in Chicago grows. Kimbrel, who’s faced 11 batters over three appearances for the team’s Triple-A affiliate, is not far away from Wrigley. He’ll get in another inning of work on Tuesday, and then the team plans to meet with him and make a decision about next steps.
“He’s feeling really good and doing a nice job of getting himself ready,” Cubs’ President Theo Epstein said before Monday night’s game. “It’s not really about results or velo right now, it’s just kind of getting back into game shape and building that foundation. Tuesday’s an important checkpoint for him, to see how he’s feeling, and we’ll get together with him and make a call after that game.
“We’re getting close to the point where we’ll have established enough of a foundation where there’s an opportunity to take the next step provided he feels good with everything.”
Once in Chicago, expect Kimbrel to be used as a closer in the most traditional sense of the word - at least at first. That means three out appearances in save situations, as opposed to a more flexible, leverage-based role that Kimbrel has -- at times throughout his career -- pushed back against. He only pitched more than an inning twice in 2018, and has done so 26 times over the span of his 542 game career.
“With Craig, as he gets here, he’ll be slotted and really carefully,” Joe Maddon said. “And then as we get there, to the latter part of September, if it’s necessary, that’s when I think you look for the four outs possibly.
“He’ll be a three out guy when he gets here.”
Some more news and notes from Wrigley Field as the Cubs begin a 4-game series against the Braves:
- After throwing 4 innings in relief on June 20th, Cubs top prospect Adbert Alzolay will make the first start of his major league career on Tuesday night. Alzolay is the presumed odd man out once Kyle Hendricks returns, but it sounds like the Cubs will give the rookie plenty of opportunities to prove he belongs with the major league club throughout the summer. “I think it’s all about can he perform at a level that allows him to contribute and make an impact,” Epstein said. “And it’s really important because you’re always looking for contributors and especially young ones that can come in, refresh the pitching staff, and be here for a while and make an impact. We need more of those guys.”
- There were a number of updates on injured Cubs pitchers on Monday. CJ Edwards threw up to 120 feet on Monday, and felt good according to Epstein. The reliever still has to throw a handful of side sessions before the team plans to approach him with a game progression.
- Kyle Hendricks threw 15 pitches off a mound, and also felt good after. He’s possibly in line to throw a longer bullpen later this week, and Epstein had mentioned the All-Star break as a time that’s “certainly in play” for his return.
- Brandon Morrow has thrown two side sessions in Arizona, and will throw a third sometime within the next two days. Prospect Nico Hoerner is also in Arizona taking part in baseball activities. Epstein mentioned the end of this week as a time that Hoerner could start seeing live at-bats again.
- 2B prospect Robel Garcia is making a ton of noise in Iowa. The 26-year-old is slashing .294/.366/.614 with 13 home runs over 43 games this year. With a lack of production from that position at the major league level (82 wRC+, 20th in MLB), speculation on Garcia’s timeline has grown of late. “He hits the ball really, really hard from both sides of the plate,” Epstein said. “He gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed. He can turn around anyone’s fastball. Those are good ingredients - it’ll be interesting to see how he does as the league adjusts to him a little bit and challenges him with a heavier dose of breaking stuff.
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but you’ve got to pay attention to a guy who’s performing at the level he is and offers the different skills that he has. Anyone on the Triple-A level is certainly on the radar.”