Run for the Ring: NLCS Game 6
What a difference a week makes.
On Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 the Cubs faced Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley Field and mustered just 2 hits in 7 scoreless innings against the Dodgers ace.
Six days later, on Oct. 22 with a trip to the World Series on the line, they fared much better against the dominant southpaw at the corner of Clark and Addison.
The first matchup with Kershaw saw the beginning of the Cubs’ 21-inning scoreless streak that became a stressful experience for the organization and fanbase during the 2016 NLCS. But the second showdown came with the lineup firing on all cylinders after Ben Zobrist’s perfectly-timed bunt in Game 4 in L.A.
With a 3-2 lead in the series, the Cubs jumped on Kershaw early. Dexter Fowler led off with a ground-rule double and Kris Bryant immediately followed with an RBI single. Anthony Rizzo reached on an error by L.A. left fielder Andrew Toles and Zobrist made the Dodgers pay with a sacrifice fly to plate a pair of 1st-inning runs off Kershaw.
While Kyle Hendricks cruised, the Cubs offense poured it on courtesy of a Fowler RBI single (2nd inning), Willson Contreras homer (4th inning) and Rizzo homer (5th inning).
Kershaw lasted just 5 innings and was saddled with the loss after allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits.
Hendricks was simply masterful, needing only 88 pitches to dispatch the Dodgers through 7.1 shutout innings. He faced just 1 batter above the minimum, scattering a pair of singles.
“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at the time.
After Toles singled on Hendricks’ first pitch of the game, Hendricks retired 20 of the next 21 batters he faced, with the only baserunner coming off an error by Báez.
“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen. Ever.” Cubs VP of player development and scouting Jason McLeod said on that night as the Cubs clinched the National League pennant for the first time in 71 years.
No Dodger even reached second base in the game.
“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series.
Here’s how the two teams lined up that night as the Cubs made history:
Andrew Toles – LF
Corey Seager – SS
Justin Turner – 3B
Adrián González – 1B
Josh Reddick – RF
Joc Pederson – CF
Yasmani Grandal – C
Chase Utley – 2B
Clayton Kershaw – P
Dexter Fowler – CF
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Ben Zobrist – LF
Javy Báez – 2B
Willson Contreras – C
Addison Russell – SS
Albert Almora – RF
Kyle Hendricks – P
The big lineup news was the addition of Almora, with Jason Heyward relegated to the bench to start the game (he later came in as a defensive replacement in right field, pushing Almora to left). Heyward entered the game only 2-for-28 (.071 AVG) in the postseason and faced a tough matchup as a left-handed hitter against the lefty Kershaw.
The other option was Jorge Soler (a righty), but he was 0-for-8 in the playoffs to that point and Joe Maddon opted for Almora’s defense in right field over Soler’s bat.
It proved to be both the right call and not a major storyline in the game, as Almora went 0-for-3 with a strikeout hitting 8th while the rest of the offense scored more than enough for Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman.
- Hendricks had a sparkling 1.32 ERA at home during the 2016 regular season.
- This marked only the second time in franchise history the Cubs clinched a postseason series at Wrigley Field (also the 2015 NLDS against the Cardinals).
- NLCS Game 6 was the longest postseason start of Hendricks’ career.
- Of the 23 batters Hendricks faced, only 6 hit the ball out of the infield.
- The celebration on Wrigley Field lasted hours after the final pitch and included celebrities such as Eddie Vedder and John Cusack in addition to Cubs legends like Kerry Wood and Billy Williams.