Brandon Belt’s 18th-inning homer sends Giants up 2-0 in NLDS over the Nationals

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Through 17 innings, both the Giants and the Nationals had combined for two runs on 16 hits and seven walks. The cold wind blowing in at Nationals Park combined with the sterling pitching on both sides left hitters praying for anything, even a bleeder through the infield.

The game went into the 18th inning, becoming only the second playoff game to reach that plateau, joining Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS between the Astros and Braves. Tanner Roark had thrown a scoreless inning of relief and the Nationals needed him to continue as he took the mound to start the inning.

Roark missed his spot with a fastball badly — catcher Wilson Ramos set up on the outside corner, but Roark’s fastball was left right over the plate. Brandon Belt, who was 0-for-6 leading up to his at-bat against Roark, did not miss, hitting a no-doubter over the fence in right field to put the Giants up 2-1.

Hunter Strickland came on in the bottom half of the 18th and set Danny Espinosa and Denard Span down quietly. He issued a two-out walk to Anthony Rendon before bouncing back and getting Jayson Werth to fly out to right field to end the game.

The Nationals had the game very nearly won, as Jordan Zimmermann was working on a three-hit shutout with two outs in the ninth inning. The Nationals had scored the game’s only run at that point in the third inning on Anthony Rendon’s two-out RBI single. Zimmermann walked Joe Panik, forcing manager Matt Williams to call on Drew Storen from the bullpen to nail down the save — a decision that will surely be second-guessed in the time between now and the start of Game 3. Storen served up a single to Buster Posey, then Pablo Sandoval sliced a line drive down the left field line, allowing the Giants to easily tie the game at 1-1. Posey was following Sandoval home and was tagged out on a well-executed relay throw from left fielder Bryce Harper to shortstop Ian Desmond, who made a good throw home to catcher Wilson Ramos. The tag was reviewed and home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s out ruling was upheld, sending the game into the 10th.

There was a bit of drama in the bottom of the 10th inning, as Carapazza made a debatable strike call on a 3-1 pitch from reliever Jeremy Affeldt to Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera was clearly unhappy with the call, ostensibly with a slight delay from Carapazza. Affeldt’s 3-2 pitch was nearly in the same location and Carapazza rung up Cabrera emphatically. Cabrera slammed his bat, then his helmet, before confronting Carapazza, who quickly ejected him. Manager Matt Williams rushed out to defend his player and was shortly thereafter ejected as well. From there, both sides would exchange goose eggs with sterling relief work.

Giants reliever Yusmeiro Petit will wind up the game’s unsung hero, as he threw six scoreless innings of relief, when the Giants’ bullpen was nearly exhausted, before giving way to Strickland. Starter Tim Hudson — who also started that 18-inning game in 2005, coincidentally — is not to be forgotten, either, as he was every bit Zimmermann’s equal, despite allowing a two-out, third-inning run to the Nationals on an Anthony Rendon single. Hudson went 7 1/3, allowing seven hits (six singles) while striking out eight and issuing no walks.

The series will resume in San Francisco on Monday with the Giants leading the Nationals two games to none. The Nationals will have to rely on Doug Fister to stave off elimination, while the Giants will counter with Madison Bumgarner, who tossed a four-hit shutout against the Pirates in the National League Wild Card game on Wednesday.

Fried, Braves go to salary arbitration for 2nd straight year

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Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried went to salary arbitration with the Atlanta Braves for the second straight year, asking for $15 million instead of the team’s $13.5 million offer.

The 29-year-old left-hander went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal in arbitration. That was after he pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.

Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 World Series, had his case heard Friday by a panel that’s expected to issue a decision Saturday.

Players have won two of three decisions so far: Pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Miami Marlins. But Seattle defeated Diego Castillo ($2.95 million).

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday. About 20 more cases are scheduled through Feb. 17.