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

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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.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.