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Cubs eke out 2-1 win in Game 3 of NLDS against Nationals, take 2-1 series lead

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Nationals ace Max Scherzer made his postseason debut on Monday. The Nationals held him back to give him more time to heal from a “tweaked” hamstring suffered during his last start of the regular season. It worked, as he tossed six no-hit innings against the Cubs, issuing three walks while striking out six.

The Nationals gave Scherzer a 1-0 lead to work with in the top of the sixth. Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber botched a catch on a Daniel Murphy fly ball, then scooted it away with his glove trying to get it back. With Murphy on third base with two outs, Ryan Zimmerman ripped a double to right-center field off of Cubs starter Jose Quintana to give the Nats a 1-0 lead.

Scherzer lost the no-hit bid in the bottom of the seventh when Ben Zobrist swatted a one-out double to left-center field. That brought manager Dusty Baker out to the mound who, after a 30-second conversation with his pitcher who pleaded to stay in, brought in lefty reliever Sammy Solis to face lefty Kyle Schwarber. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon countered by bringing Albert Almora, Jr. in as a pinch-hitter. Almora — a fantastic hitter against lefties — drilled a 3-2 fastball from Solis into left field for an RBI single, knotting the game up at 1-1. Solis gave up another single to Jason Heyward, but was bailed out of trouble when Addison Russell lined out on a nice play by Michael Taylor in center field. Heyward was way too far off the bag and was doubled off first base to end the inning.

For a franchise that, until last year, had been famous for its bad luck, the Cubs had some luck go their way in the bottom of the eighth. Tommy La Stella led off the frame by drawing a walk against Nats reliever Brandon Kintzler. Jon Jay then moved Leonys Martin, who pinch-ran for La Stella, up to second with a sacrifice bunt. Kintzler struck out Kris Bryant for the second out, but Baker opted to bring in lefty Oliver Perez to face Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo blooped a first-pitch slider from Perez into shallow left-center field, almost exactly between left fielder Jayson Werth, Taylor in center, and shortstop Trea Turner, which plated Martin for the go-ahead run. Rizzo ventured too far off the first base bag in the action and was caught in a rundown to end the inning.

Closer Wade Davis took the hill to start the ninth. As he did so often during the regular season, he nailed the game down with ease. He struck out Murphy, got Zimmerman to ground out, then got Werth to pop out to Rizzo just behind the first base bag for a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The Cubs will try to punch their ticket to the NLCS on Tuesday at home, starting at 5:30 PM ET. They’ll send Jake Arrieta out to the mound to face the Nationals’ Tanner Roark.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.