About Matt Huddleston

I'm a guy who loves baseball. It is such a great game. I do not, however, have a favorite team that I cheer for. I just root for my favorite players.

Indians Head Back to Cleveland Still One Win Away

After witnessing the Indians dominating game one of the World Series and the Cubs coming back to take control of game two, you knew game three was bound to be exciting.

With the series tied at a game apiece, each team would kylecome out wanting to take control of the series and give them the advantage of heading into game four of the first World Series games to be played at Wrigley Field since 1945.

That was certainly the case from the first pitch on Friday night, as the two starters — Josh Tomlin for the Indians and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs — were absolutely terrific the first time through the opposing team’s order, despite neither being power-pitchers and the disadvantage of having the wind blowing out.

While games one and two failed to live up to the billing of a pitcher’s dual, game three turned out to be the game everyone had been waiting for, as neither starting pitcher allowed a single run over the first four innings and essentially were breezing through every batter they faced.

The first struggles of the game for Hendricks came in the fifth inning, when the bases became loaded with just one out. Due to the situation, Hendricks was removed from the game, and was replaced by Justin Grimm, who promptly got Francisco Lindor to ground into a double play; despite having gone 5-9 previously in the postseason, and being the first player age 22 or younger to start a World Series 5-9 since Mickey Mantle.

Tomlin was replaced in the sixth inning by Andrew Miller, who once again was untouchable, doing his part in keeping the game scoreless through the seventh inning, and punching the new record for scoreless innings by a reliever in the postseason, with 15 straight. It was also in that inning when the Indians would finally put something together.

millerA pinch-hit single from Coco Crisp, who had previously gone 3-18 in the playoffs, scored pinch-runner Michael Martinez from third, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead in the late innings. With the way this game was going, you quickly got the feeling that it was going to be difficult for the Cubs to rally back.

Although Bill Murray attempted to get the Cubs motivated before their at-bats in the seventh with his Daffy-Duck-edition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, it wouldn’t do much good in the end, despite getting the crowd in a lightened mood late in the ballgame.

The Cubs would set themselves up nicely in that very inning, as well as several more times in the game — including the ninth inning, where they had runner on second and third with two outs — but they weren’t able to come through and ended up losing the close game and falling behind the Indians two games to one in the series.

With the win, the Indians marked their fifth shutout pitching performance of their postseason thus far (a new MLB record), and also secured just the 25th time in the 649-game history of the World Series that a game ended with a final score of 1-0. In addition, the last time the Cubs were shutout in the World Series 1-0 came way back in 1918, seeing Babe Ruth throw a shutout against Chicago, leaving little doubt that this series is something historic.

Although the game was thrilling for baseball fans, it was obviously a disappointing loss for the Cubs and their fan base, as it guaranteed they could no longer win the series at Wrigley Field in front of their home crowd. Furthermore, falling one game further away from finally breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought, the Cubs would have to come back the next night and even up the score if they wanted to avoid sitting just one loss away from elimination altogether. You began to get the feeling that game four was going to be another absolute battle.

Game four began just that way, with John Lackey going up against Corey Kluber, who had been terrific in game one. But this time around, it was Lackey who began strong, with Kluber giving up a run in the first, after allowing a drop-in double to Dexter Fowler, and a single up the middle from Anthony Rizzo, making the score 1-0 Cubs.santana

But before the Cubs fans were able to settle back into their seats, Lackey gave up a run of his own via a solo home run to Carlos Santana in the second, marking the first home run by a first baseman in the World Series at Wrigley Field since Lou Gehrig in 1932. Then, following an error by Bryant which allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to reach first — he was moved to second by Perez with two outs — the next batter, Tyler Naquin, was walked to get to the pitcher.

But Kluber proceeded to hit a weak tapper that was thrown wildly by Bryant for his second error of the game, allowing Chisenhall to score and give the Indians a one-run lead. Once again, the next inning, after a leadoff double by Kipnis, the Indians would score when Lindor singled him home, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.

Neither team would score again for the next two innings, but the Indians were back at it again in the sixth. Mike Montgomery, the reliever for Lackey, gave up a leadoff walk to Lindor, a single to Santana, and a ground out that made it first and third with one out. The next batter Chisenhall then blasted a ball deep enough into the outfield to allow Lindor to score and make it 4-1.

The Cubs would attempt to answer back in the bottom half when a leadoff double from Rizzo got the crowd amped up, but yet again the Cubs couldn’t make it count, failing to get another hit in the inning.

kipnisThe Indians, however, couldn’t stop hitting all night long. Leading off the seventh with a double was Coco Crisp, who advanced to third on a wild pitch with no outs. Rajai Davis was then drilled with the next pitch, and Jason Kipnis ended up launching a three-run bomb to push the lead to six runs.

With that hit, the fans went absolutely silent, especially with Andrew Miller entering the game. But Miller proved that he was in fact human, giving up a homer to Fowler in the eighth inning. Still, the Cubs weren’t able to get anywhere close to threatening the Indians 7-2 lead, as Cleveland was victorious for the second straight night and moved just one win away from winning it all.

Down 3-1 in the series, Sunday night’s game was a win or go home game for the Cubs. If they had any shot at extending their season, they would quite simply have to start getting big hits in game five or they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Indians. Though the odds were against them, the majority of the baseball world was with them, hoping they could find a way to keep the season going just a little while longer.

Jon Lester certainly gave the Cubs’ fans plenty to cheer about in the very first inning, looking sharp and striking out the side to begin the game — the first National League pitcher to do so since John Smoltz in 1996. Equally sharp, however, was Trevor Bauer, who kept the Cubs off the board as well to begin the ballgame.

The second inning was deja vu for the Cubs, as it saw the Indians once again taking an early lead off of a Jose Ramirez solo shot — the youngest player to hit a World Series homer at Wrigley Field since Joe DiMaggio in 1938. Citing thebryant fact that the Indians had won their last fifteen games in which they had hit a home run, going back to the regular season, the odds were slowly falling away from a Cubs victory.

But then the fourth inning happened. Despite Bauer being terrific through the first three innings, his second time through the order proved troublesome. The Cubs bats absolutely came alive, as following a Kris Bryant leadoff home run, Anthony Rizzo proceeded to double off the outfield wall and later scored after a couple of well-placed singles. The bases would quickly become loaded after an out was recorded, and the veteran David Ross would deliver a sacrifice fly, scoring the Cubs’ third run of the inning, making it 3-1.

Despite Wrigley Field hopping following the breakout inning, the Indians would cool things down a bit, leading off the fifth inning with a double from Carlos Santana, who was moved to third with just one out. But a terrific job of pitching by Lester kept the Indians from scoring a single run.

That would only last through the sixth inning, however, when a two-out drop-in single by Francisco Lindor scored the second run of the contest for the Indians. After finishing out that inning, Lester’s night was done. His replacement, Carl Edwards Jr., was shaky to begin, giving up a single to Mike Napoli and allowing him to advance to second withchapman no outs on a passed ball. But Chapman was brought on, who kept things from getting out of hand.

Chapman would stay in for the eighth inning, and although he would allow a runner to make it all the way to third with two outs, a 102 mile-per-hour heater got the strikeout he needed to escape the inning untouched. After little getting through the eighth, Chapman was entrusted with the ninth inning as well, getting the job done in quick fashion, and securing the victory for Chicago with a lengthy eight-out save performance.

With the win, the Cubs move to 3-2 in the series. Although still at a disadvantage heading back into enemy territory down a game, you know the Cubs are at the very least going to be very competitive and not go down without a fight. History is still in the process of being made. After 108 years of disappointment, the Cubs are by no means done in their attempt at achieving baseball glory.

World Series Tied Heading to Chicago

One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great seriesteams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.

Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.

But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.

The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.

Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the kluberother side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.

Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.

Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.

The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.

One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.APTOPIX World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.

With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.

Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.

Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.

rizzoAs it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.

The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.

However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.

Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.

Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.

arrietaThe double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.

Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.

The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.

2016 World Series Predictions

You would think that after years of unsuccessful predictions I would get the message that I’m absolutely no good at foreseeing baseball future. But despite the countless hours spent trying to analyze a team’s roster and correctly select which would win any given series only to pick the wrong team — I’ve only made a handful of correct predictions to date — I’m going to give it a go once again.

world-series

Originally, I had the World Series being the Red Sox taking on the Cubs in my postseason predictions. With the Red Sox getting beaten out by the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, that prediction obviously didn’t come true, but getting the Cubs correct wasn’t half bad, considering they hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945. I now have a fifty/fifty shot at correctly getting the World Series right, but I’ll probably find a way to mess that up, too.

Game one takes place Tuesday night, with Jon Lester set to face off against Corey Kluber. It has all the makings of a great pitchers dual, but you never know what to expect with playoff baseball. In the end, I have the Cubs taking game one by the slightest of margins. Game two in Cleveland is another tossup, but I feel the Indians will have the crowd behind them and will be able to get to Jake Arrieta, who has been a bit shaky as of late.

Heading into Chicago for game three, I have the series tied at a game each. I think Kyle Hendricks will pick up right where he left off, earning the Cubs their second win of the series. Not wanting to see things slip away, I feel the Indians will even things up again in game four, with the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field having the Cubs sent off with a victory. That would force them back to Cleveland up 3-2 on the Indians.

Following that, I don’t think the Cubs will waste any time in Cleveland, winning game six of the series, and earning their first World Series title since way back in 1908.

No matter what happens, this is set to be a remarkable series. With both teams facing generational droughts, either one would be bringing joy to their respective fan bases who haven’t seen a World Series Championship in decades. But despite the fact that the team with home-field advantage has won the last 24 out of 30 titles, I think the team celebrating when all is said and done will indeed be the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs Just One Win Away from the World Series

Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the javier-baezcourse of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.

Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.

But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.

However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.

How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.

We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.

Recap of My Votes for the 2016 MLB Major Awards

Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American votingLeague and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. I decided to post them in pairs, with Rookie of the Year coming back-to-back (A.L. then N.L.), followed by the same for Cy Young and MVP.

Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end, I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.

In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap of each of my picks. Although there are a couple of selections that people will likely disagree with, this is just the way I would vote if my vote had any say.

Here are my picks that I made for each category:

American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez

National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager

American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander

National League Cy Young: Max Scherzer

American League MVP: David Ortiz

National League MVP: Kris Bryant

Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that when the time arrives.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award

As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player bryantsometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

Joey Votto had a somewhat under-the-radar superstar season, after getting off to a horribly slow start. When all was said and done this season, Votto wound up hitting .326 with 29 home runs and a .440 OBP. Playing for a sparsely talented Reds club, it’s easy for Votto to get overlooked, but he was in fact very valuable.

Equally as valuable was Daniel Murphy. This season for the Nationals, Murphy hit a staggering .347, virtually getting a hit every night. Also hitting a career high 25 homers to go along with 104 RBI’s, the year Murphy had is certainly one to remember, but not one to award with the MVP.

One of the brightest stars in baseball at the moment, Anthony Rizzo, also placed in the running for MVP in the National League. With his 32 homers and .385 OBP, Rizzo helped propel the Cubs to the postseason for the second straight season. But regardless, the numbers simply aren’t there for him to win the award.

Once again, I made the very difficult decision of placing Nolan Arenado as runner up in the voting for MVP. Despite him having hit 41 homers with a mammoth 133 RBI’s on the season, I find it hard to give him my vote. Even so, there should be nothing taken away from the season he had. Arenado is in a class all his own.

With the second-place finish of Nolan Arenado, that leaves Kris Bryant on top for the Most Valuable Player in all of the National League. Although he recorded 31 fewer runs batted in than Arenado on the year, his performance day in and day out, including two five-for-five performances, helped cement the Cubs with the best record in all of baseball, subsequently giving Bryant the edge in the MVP voting.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Most Valuable Player Award

Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While ortizit’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

The first player I’m forced to knock from this group is Mark Trumbo, who lead all of baseball in home runs this season but won’t lead them all in MVP voting. Despite smacking 47 big flies for the O’s and driving in 108 runs, helping to keep the Orioles in contention, Trumbo didn’t quite do enough to earn the honor.

Next off the list for me is Jose Altuve. For such a small player, Altuve has huge impacts each and every season, and this year saw more of the same. Playing in all but one game this season, Altuve hit a career high 24 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI’s, all while batting .338. Even so, he didn’t do enough to make him the most valuable.

Also not the most valuable in my mind is Mookie Betts, but it’s not because the stats weren’t there. Betts hit .318 for the Red Sox and slugged 31 homers in addition to scoring 122 runs. If not for a couple of other players who had superstar-level seasons, Betts would be the easy pick for MVP. But he’s not this season.

Finishing second in MVP voting for the fourth time in his five year career is Mike Trout, as I’m seeing things now. He had the highest WAR — if that’s a stat you like — yet again of any player around baseball, coming from his great defense and .315/.441/.550 slash line. He was the most valuable Angels player by far, but not quite the most valuable American Leaguer.

That distinction goes to Boston’s David Ortiz. In this his final season in Major League Baseball, Ortiz posted stats never before seen by any player age forty or older. Hitting .315 while slugging a superb .660, Ortiz was able to record a 38 home run and 127 RBI season, pushing the Red Sox to another division title. With this being David Ortiz’s final campaign, it would be fitting to see him go out in style with the Most Valuable Player award.