Bryant, Zobrist notch RBIs in two-run first; Contreras, Rizzo belt solo HRs
By Jenifer Langosch
CHICAGO -- As Wrigleyville teemed with anticipation about a potential historic night ahead, the Cubs gave the sellout crowd an early reason to cheer -- and relax -- by jumping on Clayton Kershaw for two first-inning runs in a 5-0 Game 6 victory in the National League Championship Series on Saturday night. With the win, the Cubs advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
After being shut out by Kershaw for seven innings in Game 2, the Cubs wasted no time giving their starter, Kyle Hendricks, an opportunity to pitch with the lead. After Hendricks breezed through the top half of the first on nine pitches, Dexter Fowler opened the bottom half of the frame by dropping a ground-rule double in along the right-field foul line. Kris Bryant followed with an RBI single, giving the Cubs a lead just seven pitches in.
Chicago then capitalized on an error by Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles to add on one more. Toles dropped a fly ball by three-hole hitter Anthony Rizzo, which allowed Rizzo to scoot into second and pushed Bryant to third. Bryant scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist.
The two runs scored matched the number of hits the Cubs mustered off the Dodgers' ace six days earlier. He had allowed only three first-inning runs in total over 21 regular-season starts. By the time he wrapped up the first inning on Saturday, Kershaw had thrown 30 pitches.
The Cubs weren't done, either. Wrigley Field continued rocking as the Cubs built that lead to five runs. Fowler drove in a second-inning run with a two-out single. Willson Contreras and Rizzo then connected for solo homers in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, to put the Cubs ahead, 5-0, with 16 outs left to get.
According to Statcast™, Contreras' homer left his bat at 105.5 mph, with a launch angle of 24 degrees and traveled 379 feet. It was the third-hardest-hit homer off Kershaw in 2016, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton (109.5 mph) and Matt Duffy (105.9).
Kershaw, who had not allowed five runs in a game since April 26, allowed four hits with an exit velocity of 105-plus mph. That's the most he had ever given up in a game. Kershaw had not allowed a multihomer game since April 9. The Dodgers pinch-hit for Kershaw in the sixth, ending his start at 93 pitches.
Before Saturday's first pitch, Cubs manager Joe Maddon impressed upon his team the importance of scoring first in this game. Why? The team that has scored first has won every game of this NLCS.
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.