St. Louis Cardinals' Kozma hits a three run home run in front of Washington Nationals catcher Suzuki during the second inning in Game 3 of their MLB NLDS baseball series in Washington

NLDS Game 3 Live Blog: Cardinals vs. Nationals, baby!


4:42 PM: Bryce Harper flies out to second and that’s the ballgame. Cardinals win 8-0 and take a 2-1 lead. The Nats’ backs are up against the wall.

Stay tuned to HBT for some postgame analysis and all kinds of other things on a busy, busy evening of playoff baseball.

4:41 PM: Jayson Werth walks. He’s the Nats first baserunner since the sixth inning.

4:24 PM: After not going down in order in any of the first six innings, the Nats have gone down 1-2-3 in both the seventh and the eighth. We’re heading to the ninth with the score still 8-0.

4:18 PM: Michael Morse with a long fly out. No oohs or ahhs from the crowd this time. They’re starting to get jaded just like the fans of every other team. Playoff frustration will do that to you.

4:15 PM: Costas and Kaat continuing on the Strasburg stuff. Believe me, I have beaten that horse as much as anyone, but the two pitchers who pooped the bed in this series so far would have pitched even if Strasburg was on the team. And the Nats offense has sucked too. Strasburg will be a fun conversation topic if the Nats lose this series, but let’s not pretend he’s the difference between victory and defeat.

4:13 PM:  Mattheus just walked Allen Craig and unleashed the loudest F-bomb I’ve heard in a televised game since Greg Maddux retired.

4:07 PM: Ryan Mattheus is in for the Nats now in the top of the eighth. He gets two outs but then allows a Jon Jay single, a Carlos Beltran ground rule double and a Matt Holliday single and now it’s 8-0.

3:53 PM: It looked like multiple broken ankles would happen on the play, but Bryce Harper just grounded to first to a diving Allen Craig, Rosenthal covered first and just beat out Harper for the out.

3:45 PM: Garcia finally gets out of the inning, throwing 30 pitches to do it.  The bottom of the seventh awaits.

3:40 PM: Molina works a full count off Garcia and then takes ball four.  A run scores, it’s 6-0 St. Louis.

3:35 PM: The Cardinals start the seventh inning with back-to-back singles by Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran off of Christian Garcia. Then Matt Holliday grounds out to third, but the runners advance on the long throw.  Davey Johnson decides to walk Allen Craig to load the bases. Yadier Molina comes up with the bases loaded and one out.

3:30 PM: And Rosenthal gets Jayson Werth to foul out. The Nats have left a ton of runners on base today. Just can’t get that key hit.

3:26 PM: It’s Trevor Rosenthal. Here comes some serious heat, folks.

3:25 PM: Suzuki pops up — the 12th flyball out of the game — but then Stephen Lombardozzi lines a single to right. Two on and two out and here comes Mike Matheny to take Carpenter out of the game. We go to the pen. MLB Network cuts away before they say who is coming in. Oh well.

3:21 PM: Chris Carpenter strikes out Espinosa on a called strike three.  Joe West took approximately eight years to make that call. Because it’s the Joe West show. Meanwhile, Mike Matheny comes out to check on Carpenter. Carp says he’s OK. I guess we’ll see in this at bat to Suzuki.

3:18 PM: Ian Desmond leads off the bottom of the sixth with a single past Kozma at short. He’s 3 for 3. Chris Carpenter is approaching 100 pitches. He has pitched 17 innings all year before today. You have to figure he’s done soon.

3:13 PM: Carpenter strikes out. It’s 5-0 Cards after five and a half. At least Nats fans won’t be hitting rush hour all at once when the game ends.

3:11 PM: Kozma strikes out and the dangerous Chris Carpenter comes to the plate. Two out, runner at third.

3:09 PM: Daniel Descalso flies to right, Yadier Molina tags up and scores, Freese advances to third. 5-0 Cardinals. Pete Kozma to the plate with the infield in.

3:06 PM: Craig Stammen is in for Edwin Jackson to start the sixth. He plunks the first hitter he faces — Yadier Molina — and then gives up a double to David Freese.  Molina had to stop at third because it was a high, high hit that just glanced off the wall. Werth almost caught it. Two runners in scoring position, no one out. This could break open big here now.  Nats pitching coach Steve McCatty making a slooooow walk to the mound to allow time for the pen to get going.

2:59 PM:  And Morse pops up to right, leaving the bases loaded. A real missed chance there. Cards lead 4-0.

2:58 PM: Jim Kaat, in describing that walk: “it won’t show up in the box score, but …”  Actually, Jim, yes, walks do show up in the box score.

2:57 PM: With runners on the corners, Carpenter gets Adam LaRoche to a full count and then … walks him.  Bases loaded and the tying run to the plate. It’s Michael Morse.

2:53 PM: The Nats have a little something cooking now. Jayson Werth was at first and took third on a two-out single by Ryan Zimmerman.

2:51 PM: Carpenter retires Bryce Harper with a popup for the second out of the fifth. Costas says it’s nine popups or flyballs for Carpenter so far. Nats just getting under everything.

2:42 PM: After the sacrifice, Beltran grounds out to third, and Carpenter can’t advance. Edwin Jackson then strikes out Allen Craig. Gee, if only the Cardinals had one more out.  I’m not really rooting for either team here, but I sorta want bad things to happen to Mike Matheny now for bunting with his leadoff hitter after the pitcher hits a double.

2:37 PM: And Mike Matheny has Jon Jay bunting. Carpenter gets to third so I guess it worked, but with the pitcher nailing Jackson like Carpenter did, why doesn’t Matheny five Jackson a free out? When you have a boxer on the ropes, you don’t start clinching. You smack him in the head.

2:35 PM: Chris Carpenter nails a leadoff double off Edwin Jackson. It was freakin’ cranked and almost went out. Carpenter is 2 for 2 against Jackson and is now 4 for 7 against him in his career.

2:32 PM: Meanwhile, in game action, Ian Desmond doubled, but he was stranded at second. Chris Carpenter is shutting out the Nats on four hits through four.

2:29 PM: When the Nats were stuck with the 1PM start, fans complained that MLB was not respecting the history of the moment.  Glad to see the Nats themselves are properly reverent:

2:27 PM: Why hasn’t the government cracked down on Axe Body Spray for false advertising? I’ve used their products before and not once — once! — was the opportunity to participate in a foursome with three towel-clad beauties presented to me.

2:24 PM: Edwin Jackson strikes out two in the fourth. Guess he can’t mulligan the first two innings, but it’s good to see him snap out of it.

2:22 PM:  Costas just dropped a factoid Nats fans might not like: since the advent of the wild card, the team with the best record in baseball has only won three of 17 World Series.

2:15 PM: End of the third, still 4-0. Looks like everyone has settled down now.

2:13 PM: Not gonna say the Nats fans are totally out of it right now. Bryce Harper just flied out to left and, as Matt Holliday was camped out under it, the crowd was shouting “Nooonaann!” or something like it.

2:09 PM: Sometimes I say that I don’t think commercials work. Then the DQ chicken strip basket ad comes on and I’m all hungry for DQ chicken strip baskets. Hurm.

2:07 PM: Jackson strikes out Allen Craig and then induces a Yadier Molina double play. Jackson lives to give up solid hits in another inning.

2:01 PM: Matt Holliday hits a solid single to lead off the third. Jackson has nada.

1:58 PM: Meanwhile, the second inning ends with the Nats doing no damage. It’s still 4-0.

1:57 PM: I thought Bryce Harper looked weird earlier but I couldn’t figure out why. Here’s why: red contact lenses. Holy crap that’s disturbing.

1:54 PM: Jim Kaat notes that Joyce is “no stranger to controversial calls.” You don’t say.  Now MLB showing replays of the Armando Galarraga play. Oy.

1:53 PM: After a leadoff single, Danny Espinosa tries to bunt his way on, but was called out by first base umpire Jim Joyce. On replay, Espinosa was safe. Imagine Jim Joyce getting a call at first base wrong.

1:51 PM:  You guys think I’m a troll? Ha!

1:46 PM: Jon Jay hits into a double play. Jackson needed that like nobody’s business. Then Beltran grounds out. Inning over. But, dudes, 4-0 Cardinals.

1:43: PM: Next pitch, Chris Carpenter of all people hits a single to right field.  We officially have Bad Edwin Jackson in the house. I wonder what Stephen Strasburg thinks about all of this.

1:42 PM: Pete Kozma hits a three run homer! It’s 4-0 Cards. And Nats Park deflates, almost immediately.

1: 41 PM: After the double, Jackson goes 3-2 to Descalso who then deposits the payoff pitch into left for a single. Runners on first and second, no one out.

1:38 PM: David Freese leads off the second with a double. Edwin Jackson floated it over the plate despite Kurt Suzuki wanting it outside. If his command is off, he can be beaten around like nobody’s business.

1:33 PM: Carpenter strikes out Morse to end the inning. Carpenter threw a lot of pitches that inning. He tends to settle down as games go on. The Nats missed a chance.

1:31 PM: Carpenter goes full count to LaRoche and he grounds to second. If it was any other runner there would have been no chance at all for a double play. LaRoche was safe at first, but because he’s slow as molasses out there, it was close. Runners on the corners, two out and Michael Morse at the plate.

1:26 PM: One out Werth on first, Ryan Zimmerman hits a slow grounder to third which David Freese muffed. Runners on first and second now and Adam LaRoche at the plate. It was too slow a ball for a double play, methinks, but there should be two out now.

1:25 PM: Bryce Harper nailed a ball to right which sounded like a homer off the bat but fell short for an out. The crowd almost exploded. When I was at Nats Park in August I noticed that, like a lot of places with relatively new fan bases, Nats fans tend to think every pop up is a potential homer.  The phenomenon is enhanced, I imagine, by all the playoff Nattitude flowing through the place.

1:23 PM: Costas notes that Davey Johnson is “a forward thinking guy.” Which is totally true and always has been. One thing I’ve hated to see this year is the lazy idea that Johnson is somehow some crusty old school guy simply because he’s old.  Nothing is further from the truth.

1:21 PM: Jayson Werth leads off the bottom of the first with a single to center. The crowd goes nuts. They’re really amped in Washington, you can tell. Probably all thrilled that their bosses gave them the day off.

1:20 PM: As I watch the 115th Captain Morgan commercial of the postseason, I will note that Michael Morse was impossibly slow getting to that double to left field. The ball stuck under the pad on the wall, and Morse was expecting a bounce. If he’s more spry about it, Holliday may not score.

1:15 PM: Matt Holliday singled and then Allen Craig doubled into the left field corner. Holliday scores. 1-0 Cardinals. Then Molina ground out, and the Nats are out of the top of the first.

1:13 PM: Second out of the first inning is a popup to Danny Espinosa at second. He fought the sun. It looks kinda brutal out there. Keep it in mind for later.

1:10 PM:  Joe West is the home plate umpire. Not all umpires get to ump in the postseason. It’s an honor and a reward for what MLB thinks is good work. Think about that. Joe West.

1:08 PM: I know we’re supposed to hate everything on the Internet, but I’m not gonna lie, I like the Bronson Arroyo/Aroldis Chapman Red Hooded Sweatshirt commercial. Laugh every time. I don’t care what you think of me.

1:06 PM: In case you missed it earlier, here are the lineups:

1. Jon Jay, CF                 1. Jayson Werth, RF
2. Carlos Beltran, RF          2. Bryce Harper, CF
3. Matt Holliday, LF           3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Allen Craig, 1B             4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Yadier Molina, C            5. Michael Morse, LF
6. David Freese, 3B            6. Ian Desmond, SS
7. Daniel Descalso, 2B         7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Pete Kozma, SS              8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Chris Carpenter, RHP        9. Edwin Jackson, RHP

1:00 PM: I forgot that we get Bob Costas for this broadcast. He’s so big now — hosts the Olympics and everything else — that it’s kind of jarring to hear him in a regular old baseball game, even a playoff game. I’ll say though — and I’m not being an NBC homer here, I’ve always thought it — that Costas was the best baseball play-by-play guy outside of the Valhalla in which Scully, Harwell and the like reside.

12:57 PM: Frank Robinson is about to throw out the first pitch. He’s accompanied by several members of the military. For there is no one short of that as badass as he is. Gotta love Frank.  Oh, and he threw a strike on the fly.

12:31 PM: Since Major League Baseball was so cruel and unethical to schedule the Nats first-ever home playoff game at 1PM, and since they put it on MLB Network, I realize that a lot of you guys can’t really see it.  In light of that, we’re doing you a solid and live-blogging it.

Seeing how much hell we’ve given the Nats this week, we promise to be equal opportunity trollers for this one.  I’ll admit it will be harder to troll the Cardinals without Tony La Russa around, but I’m sure we’ll think of something.  Suggestions in the comments, of course.

Be sure to hang out here once the game gets underway at 1:07PM Eastern. And that’s the case even if you think I’m gonna be mean to your team.  It beats workin’, right?

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.