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?

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.