LEADING OFF: Cubs try to dent Dodgers, Judge breaks loose
A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
PROFESSOR VS YU
Kyle Hendricks is set to pitch for the Cubs, who are trying to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Dodgers in their NL Championship Series. Hendricks finished the regular season with a 2.19 ERA over his final 13 starts and opened the playoffs with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals. The Professor, from Dartmouth, has been overpowering at times despite a fastball that averaged just 86.6 mph, third-slowest among pitchers with at least 100 innings this year.
Yu Darvish gets the nod for Los Angeles. The Japanese right-hander tweaked his mechanics after being acquired from Texas in a trade deadline deal, and he’s been dominant with a 98 mph heater this fall. He pitched one-run ball and struck out seven over five innings in NLDS Game 3 against Arizona.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge had mostly been a no-show in the playoffs before launching a three-run homer against the Astros on Monday, lifting New York to an 8-1 win in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. The rookie, who led the league with 52 home runs this season, was a combined 2 for 28 with 20 strikeouts in the playoffs vs. Cleveland and Houston until connecting. Judge also made a fine running catch while slamming into the padded right field wall at Yankee Stadium.
LEAN ON LANCE
Houston manager A.J. Hinch picked Lance McCullers Jr. over Brad Peacock to pitch against Yankees right-hander Sonny Gray in Game 4, with the Astros leading the series 2-1. McCullers, an All-Star in July, finished 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA but hasn’t started since Sept. 30 or won since June 24. McCullers was sidelined from July 31 to Sept. 6, his second stint on the disabled list this year due to lower back discomfort, but made his first career relief appearance against the Red Sox in the Division Series. Hinch said McCullers “has some of the best stuff in the big leagues and we believe in him.”
“I’ve been feeling like myself a lot more lately,” said McCullers, who won 5-1 at Yankee Stadium on May 12. “I’m excited to get the ball.”
The Dodgers and Cubs are in the NLCS for a second straight year, but this Los Angeles team looks very different. Justin Turner was the only Dodger to start Game 2 of the 2016 NLCS and crack LA’s starting lineup Sunday. The new faces around him have come up big, though, including fill-in shortstop Charlie Culberson, who is 2 for 5 with two doubles while replacing the injured Corey Seager. NL Rookie of the Year favorite Cody Bellinger has also been a key newcomer, going 3 for 7 in the first two games.
A strength of Chicago’s during the regular season, the bullpen has a 7.03 ERA in the playoffs. Manager Joe Maddon has tried to find creative solutions, including using starter John Lackey as a reliever in Games 1 and 2. Lackey allowed Justin Turner’s game-ending homer Sunday night, and he, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery and Hector Rondon all have ERAs larger than 10.00 this postseason. Meanwhile, closer Wade Davis has yet to appear since a seven-out save in NLDS Game 5 against Washington — Maddon was holding him Sunday in case Chicago encountered a save situation.