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Cubs outlast Nationals 9-8 in wild NLDS Game 5, advance to NLCS to face Dodgers

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The Cubs did just enough right to win NLDS Game 5 at Nationals Park on Thursday evening, defeating the Nationals 9-8 and advancing to the NLCS to face the Dodgers.

There was a lot of scoring in this one, so I’ll spare you the intricate play-by-play for each event. The Cubs opened the scoring in the top of the first against Nats starter Gio Gonzalez, as Anthony Rizzo brought home a run with a ground out. The Nationals answered in the bottom of the second, scoring four runs: one on a Daniel Murphy home run to right field and another three on Michael Taylor‘s homer to left, both off of Kyle Hendricks.

The Cubs cut the deficit by two in the top of the third inning, scoring a run on an Addison Russell ground out and on a wild pitch uncorked by Gonzalez.

Max Scherzer entered the game in relief in the fifth inning and it did not go well. Scherzer yielded two two-out singles, then a two-run double to Russell to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead, then intentionally walked Jason Heyward, then saw Javier Baez reach on a dropped third strike. Catcher Matt Wieters threw the ball wide of first base, skipping into right field, so Russell scored to make it 6-4. Tommy La Stella reached when Wieters interfered with his swing to load the bases. Scherzer hit Jon Jay with a pitch, forcing in a run to make it 7-4.

Russell knocked in another run in the top of the sixth with a double against Brandon Kintzler. The Nationals finally answered, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Mike Montgomery walked Ryan Zimmerman but ball four was a wild pitch, allowing a run to score. Murphy then doubled to left field to plate one more run, reducing the Nationals’ deficit to 8-6.

Kris Bryant pushed across one more run for the Cubs in the top of the seventh with an RBI ground out. It was controversial as Jay slid into Murphy at second base on a double play attempt, which Nationals manager Dusty Baker thought violated the “Chase Utley rule.” But after a replay review, the ruling on the field was upheld, giving the Cubs their ninth run.

The Nationals loaded the bases with one out, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate in the bottom of the seventh against Jose Quintana. Harper, though, could only muster a sacrifice fly to center field, making it a 9-7 game. Zimmerman struck out against Wade Davis to end the frame.

Davis remained in the game for the eighth but he couldn’t find the strike zone. He threw seven straight balls and ended up walking the first two batters he faced. He was bailed out, it seemed, when pinch-hitter Adam Lind swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Taylor, though, kept the rally alive, ripping a single up the middle to bring in a run for a 9-8 score. Jose Lobaton kept the line moving with a single up the middle, but then he made perhaps the costliest mistake of his career. After Davis threw a ball to Trea Turner, catcher Contreras snap threw to first base. Rizzo applied the tag on Lobaton, who slid back into the first base bag. He was initially ruled safe, but his foot popped up slightly given his momentum when Rizzo still had his glove on him. After replay review, Lobaton was ruled out and the Nationals’ rally ended.

Davis collected himself in the bottom of the ninth, getting Turner to fly out. He then struck out Werth and Harper to end the game and send the Cubs to the NLCS to face the Dodgers. Another tough exit from the playoffs for the Nationals.

The NLCS begins on Saturday at 8 PM ET. The Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw to the hill, as expected. We’ll have to see how the Cubs configure their rotation.

Congressional task force passes resolution opposing MLB’s minor league contraction plan

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We’ve talked at length about Major League Baseball’s plan to eliminate 42 minor league clubs. We also recently talked about Congress getting involved. Today that process started. It started with a non-binding, symbolic move.

That move: several members of Congress, calling themselves the “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force,” introduced a resolution saying that Major League Baseball should drop its plan to eliminate the minor league clubs and, rather, maintain the current minor league structure. The resolution reads as follows:

RESOLUTION

Supporting Minor League Baseball, and for other purposes.

Whereas 40 million plus fans have attended Minor League Baseball games each season for 15 consecutive years;

Whereas Minor League Baseball provides wholesome affordable entertainment in 160 communities throughout the country;

Whereas, in 2018, Minor League Baseball clubs donated over $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts to their local communities and completed over 15,000 volunteer hours;

Whereas the economic stimulus and development provided by Minor League Baseball clubs extends beyond the cities and towns where it is played, to wide and diverse geographic
areas comprising 80 percent of the population in the Nation;

Whereas Minor League Baseball is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through its Copa de la Diversio´n, MiLB Pride, FIELD Program, and Women in Baseball Leadership initiatives;

Whereas Minor League Baseball is the first touchpoint of the national pastime for millions of youth and the only touchpoint for those located in communities far from Major League cities;

Whereas Congress has enacted numerous statutory exemptions and immunities to preserve and sustain a system for Minor League Baseball and its relationship with Major League Baseball;

Whereas abandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide;

Whereas Minor League Baseball clubs enrich the lives of millions of Americans each year through special economic, social, cultural, and charitable contributions; and

Whereas preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 communities is in the public interest, as it will continue to provide affordable, family friendly entertainment to those communities:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the House of Representatives—
(1) supports the preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 American communities;
(2) recognizes the unique social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture; and
(3) encourages continuation of the 117-year foundation of the Minor Leagues in 160 communities through continued affiliations with Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball issued a statement in response:

MLB is confident we can modernize or minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America. However, doing so is best achieved with Minor League Baseball’s constructive participation, and a recognition that they need to be a part of the solution. So far their approach has neither been constructive nor solutions-oriented. The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table so we can work together to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities all across the country.

So that’s fun.

It’s worth noting, again, that this move by Congress does nothing substantively and, rather, exists primarily to allow Members of Congress to talk about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and America in that way that politicians like to do. Almost any act they take is opposed by half the populace, so they will always jump at an opportunity to say things that most people agree with like “taking away our sports teams is bad. If Congress wants to do something substantive here it can hold hearings and take tangible steps toward eliminating baseball’s antitrust exemption, which is basically the only real hammer it has in influencing the league. I suspect it won’t go that far and will, instead, continue to just issue statements like this.

For its part, Major League Baseball’s statement should be read as “we want to kill these guys over here, the guys we want to kill are being REAL JERKS about it and won’t help us in killing them. Congress, please shut up about not wanting them to die and, instead, tell them that they should let us kill them, OK?”

The upshot: wake me up when something actually happens beyond this posturing.