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Looking ahead to NLDS Game 3: Cardinals-Pirates

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PNC Park hosted its first-ever postseason game last Tuesday night and the Pirates rose to the occasion in front of a rambunctious, black-shirt-wearing home crowd, securing the National League Wild Card with a decisive 6-2 defeat of the Reds. Now the stakes are raised with the NL Central-champion Cardinals in town for Game 3 of this 1-1 best-of-five NLDS.

The broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS.

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano was brilliant in the Wild Card win versus Cincinnati, scattering four hits and one run over seven dominant innings. He faced the Cardinals three times during the 2013 regular season and was even more lights-out, going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 20/5 K/BB ratio in 24 total frames. All signs point to the 29-year-old left-hander giving another memorable performance on Sunday, though this sport tends to laugh at such certainties.

Taking the mound for St. Louis will be 25-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly, who had an excellent stretch in the Cardinals’ rotation between early June and late August and actually finished with a better regular-season ERA (2.69) than Liriano (3.02). Kelly has a fastball that can reach into the high-90s and decent breaking stuff, but he doesn’t have great command of that arsenal and he doesn’t rack up many strikeouts. Pair that with the poor St. Louis defense and the Cardinals are susceptible to some ugly innings when Kelly is on the mound.

Pittsburgh’s offense had a big day in Friday’s 7-1 Game 2 victory at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals scored nine runs Thursday in their 9-1 Game 1 win. We’re due for a nail-biter in Game 3, right?

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.

Cubs are seeking a court order against unlicensed vendors

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If you’re looking to rep the red and royal blue this October, you best get your gear inside the ballpark. According to Lauren Zumbach of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs have sought a court order that would allow them to seize unauthorized merchandise being hawked outside of Wrigley Field. That includes shirts with taglines like “Just One Before I Die” and apparel depicting a blue flag with a white “W.”

[The Cubs] received a trademark for “W” flags, but a trademark for use on apparel is pending. Deeming a letter of the alphabet worthy of a trademark might seem like a stretch, but around Wrigley, everyone knows what that particular W in that particular color combination means, [intellectual property attorney Douglas Masters] said.

While seven vendors have been named in the suit, the Cubs have a list of 30 more whom they suspect of trademark infringement, including retailers who primarily operate online.

Back in 2013, the Cubs ran into a similar issue when a fan dressed as alternative mascot Billy the Cub and made multiple appearances on game days outside the park. After six years in the role, Billy the Cub was ordered to cease and desist his ballpark activities by the team.

This time, however, Billy’s tip jar pales in comparison to the revenue unauthorized sellers stand to reap over the next two months. With the playoffs just around the corner and playoff merchandise sales in full swing, quashing the competition (both on the field and off) will be top priority in weeks to come.

The club’s full complaint can be found here.