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Nationals take 2-1 NLDS lead with 8-3 win over the Dodgers in Game 3

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The Nationals rallied for four runs in the third inning against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda and scored four more in the ninth against closer Kenley Jansen, helping them win 8-3 and take a 2-1 NLDS series lead on Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with Justin Turner drawing a one-out walk and promptly scoring on a Corey Seager double off of starter Gio Gonzalez. That would be it for offense for the Dodgers until the fifth.

In the third, Trea Turner led off with a single. Jayson Werth followed up with a double to right field. Outfielder Yasiel Puig made a strong throw home, but Turner’s speed was too much, allowing him to score. Werth went to third base on the throw. After Daniel Murphy flied out, Bryce Harper singled Werth home. Harper then stole second base and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Yasmani Grandal. Anthony Rendon then cranked out a two-run homer to left field, making it a 4-1 game.

In the fifth, the Dodgers clawed back into the game. Joc Pederson hit a one-out single. Carlos Ruiz pinch-hit for reliever Pedro Baez and jacked a two-run shot to left field, closing the gap to 4-3.

From there, however, the Nationals’ bullpen was too good for the Dodgers to overcome. Sammy Solis got five outs without allowing a run. Oliver Perez got one, and Shawn Kelly got five to bridge the gap to closer Mark Melancon.

The Nationals gave closer Mark Melancon plenty of cushion in the bottom of the ninth. Jayson Werth blasted a solo home run off of Jansen to push the lead to 5-3. Jansen then walked Murphy, hit Harper with a pitch, then allowed both to score on a one-out Ryan Zimmerman double to right field, making it a 7-3 game. Ross Stripling came in to relieve Jansen but yielded a sacrifice fly to Chris Heisey, pushing the lead to 8-3. A one-run lead became five in a matter of about 10 minutes.

Melancon got Grandal to fly out for the first out of the bottom of the ninth. Josh Reddick then grounded out and Pederson flied out to left to end the game, sealing the 8-3 victory for the Nationals. The Nationals will look to clinch the NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday at 5:00 PM EDT. The Nationals have yet to name a starter, but whoever it is, he will oppose the Dodgers’ Julio Urias or Clayton Kershaw.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.