Casilla to Giants fans: 'I can do this job'


Casilla to Giants fans: 'I can do this job'


PHILADELPHIA A thought drifted through Santiago Casillas mind with two outs in the 10th inning and Jimmy Rollins stepping to bat.

It wasnt that Casilla had blown five of his previous eightsave attempts. It wasnt the firm reminder that pitching coach Dave Righettiand manager Bruce Bochy had given him to keep mixing his pitches to the veryend. It wasnt the cacophony of voices from back home who want the Giants toget an established closer on the trade market.

Instead, Casilla thought back to the last time he stood onthis mound, in this place. It was Game 2 of the 2010 NL Championship Series,and he gave up the bases-clearing double to Rollins that blew open a tightgame.

With a one-run lead and the tying run on first base, Casillathought this: This is a different game. This is going to be different.

He mixed his pitches to the end.

Casilla bought a strike with his slider, he missed with acurveball, then he came back with a backdoor cutter that Rollins mildly put inplay to seal the Giants 6-5 victory and ensure a pair of series victories onthis tough trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 6, Philliese 5 (10)

It felt like the Giants played a weeks worth of games in onelate afternoon, for all the back-and-forth action on Saturday. They rallied after Ryan Howards crushing, three-run shot off Matt Cain put thembehind. They tied it on Melky Cabreras solo shot and took the lead againstPhillies closer Jonathan Papelbon with a squeeze of redemption from GregorBlanco.

So when the Giants moved to the bottom of the 10th, they entrusted Casilla to protect more than just aone-run lead on the road. He was protecting their collective effort, theirspirit and their tenacity. To blow this one wouldve been an especially harshshock to the system. It's games like these that make executives spend millions to have "that guy" in the bullpen.

Bochy said he briefly considered letting Sergio Romo hit forhimself in the 10th so he could start the bottom of the inning. But Bochy thought it would be a needless risk. Hehad Casilla rested and ready, and he still believed in him. He wanted to makesure his closer, for all his struggles in the last two weeks, got that message,too.

That should build some confidence, Bochy said. Heregrouped. You could see he came out pitching right away a different guy.

Casilla went curve-slider-curve to retire John Mayberry Jr.on a fly out. Righetti came out for a visit following a walk to PlacidoPolanco, just to remind the right-hander not to get too cheddar-happy.

And when Casilla got two strikes on pinch hitter Ty Wigginton, he didn't go dead red. He buried one ofthose spike curves of his, Wigginton couldn't lay off and Buster Posey blocked it to get the strikeout.

Casilla made an interesting comment after the game. He said he had fallen intothe trap of pitching like it was the sixth or seventh innings, when hitters arestill trying to take pitches or time fastballs. He noted that he gave up only twohome runs last year but already has surrendered six this season.

The ninth is different because they swing hard, he said.Ive learned a little bit. Too many fastballs with two strikes. I have a goodslider. I have a good curve.

Thats why he said he didnt lose confidence, even when hewas giving up the lead with alarming frequency. His stuff wasn't the problem.

I never lose the feeling in my heart, Casilla said. Iknow I can pitch any inning. I dont lose that. You make a mistake here, youhave to pay and I pay!

But I feel good to know the manager, Bochy, he believes inme.

From everything I'm told, that belief is authentic. The Giants really do think theycan make it down the stretch and thrive in the postseason with Casilla in thecloser role. Theyll look to upgrade in the bullpen, for sure, and JonathanBroxton is an arm they like. Other closers, such as Rafael Betancourt andHuston Street, are less obtainable. Brett Myers just got dealt to the WhiteSox. So obtaining another closer isnt as easy as the catalog of names mightsuggest. If help arrives, it's more realistic that it'll come in the form of another right-handed setup man.

I asked Casilla: What would you tell people who arentconvinced you can be this teams closer down the stretch and into the playoffs?

I tell them that sometimes you go through a bad time,Casilla said. "I tell them that I know if I keep pitching, I can help this team.I can do this job. I tell them 'hey, were in first place.'

Casillas save was his 24th in 30 opportunities,third in the NL behind Craig Kimbrel and Joel Hanrahan.

He was in the middle of telling reporters that he didntcare about any statistics except team victories when Clay Hensley, residentwise guy, shouted from across the room: Aw, dont believe him. He just caresabout saves and ERA.

Hensley was smiling all the while. Casilla wasted no timewhile delivering a comeback line:

Hey! We won a World Series here, and you werent here!

Now thats how you mix it up.

Cubs rock Kershaw, reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs rock Kershaw, reach first World Series since 1945


CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return


If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”