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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.

Braves clinch postseason spot with 10-1 win over Nationals

Dansby Swanson
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The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.

Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.

They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.

The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.