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Bryce Harper powers massive comeback as Nationals win 6-3 to even NLDS


After the Nationals landed on the wrong end of a two-hitter on Friday night, they were ready to rebound and even the series. Enter Bryce Harper, who tied the game with a mammoth eighth-inning home run and set up Ryan Zimmerman to clinch the game with another two-run homer later in the inning. The 6-3 win helped the Nats fend off the Cubs for the first time in the National League Division Series, tying the series 1-1 in advance of Game 3 on Monday.

Jon Lester took the mound for Chicago, firing six innings of two-hit, one run ball to stifle the Nationals’ attempts to build on an early lead. His biggest mistake was a 1-1 fastball to Anthony Rendon, who hooked it fair down in the right field corner to put the Nats on the board in the first inning.

In the fifth, he found himself in trouble again. Zimmerman roped a single up the middle, then advanced to third base on a stolen base and wild pitch. Back-to-back walks to Michael A. Taylor and Howie Kendrick set the table for Trea Turner, but Lester kept his cool, working a full count before his sinker caught Turner swinging for a big inning-ending strikeout.

Gio Gonzalez wasn’t as lucky against the Cubs’ offense, who posted a two-run lead after Willson Contreras struck a second-inning solo homer and Anthony Rizzo put up a two-RBI shot in the fourth. Contreras’ home run set a new Statcast mark for the club, too, launching at a 45-degree angle for the highest angle on a home run by any Cubs’ player in Statcast history.

It looked like things were settling in the Cubs’ favor after Lester stepped off the mound, leaving Pedro Strop to set down a scoreless seventh. Carl Edwards Jr. took things in a different direction, however. He served up a leadoff base hit to Adam Lind, then watched Bryce Harper mash a game-tying home run to bring the Nats back into the competition. Harper being Harper, the homer landed him in the record books:

The deciding blast was still to come. With one out and the bases clear, Edwards walked Rendon on eight pitches. That prompted a pitching change, but Mike Montgomery was no luckier than his predecessor. He permitted a line drive single to Daniel Murphy, then was caught on an 0-1 changeup as Zimmerman belted the three-run, go-ahead homer:

Sean Doolittle shut the door for the Nats, erasing an Addison Russell single with a game-clinching double play in the ninth. With the win, the Nationals no longer have to win Game 3 to stay in the series, though they’ll certainly try to do so when Max Scherzer faces off against Jose Quintana on Monday at 4:00 PM ET.

Mike Fiers may not be ready for start of regular season due to back issue

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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers starter Mike Fiers is dealing with a back issue and may not be ready for the start of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire characterized the injury as a “stiff back” and added, “Maybe a little bit of a bulging disk or something like that.”

Fiers, 32, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Tigers in December. He has had a forgettable spring, yielding 12 runs on 10 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

Fiers had a rotation spot locked up along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Liriano. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris were battling it out for the No. 5 spot. If Fiers opens the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, both could have spots in the rotation.