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Ryan Zimmerman was hurt during spring training after all

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman had a weird spring training. He played in exactly one Grapefruit league game, and that was on March 2, not long after games got underway. For the rest of his time in Florida he was totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

That pattern usually suggests an injury and I and most fans suspected that he was hurt. The Nats insisted otherwise, however, repeatedly saying that Zimmerman was simply doing a different sort of routine. They said it so often that they convinced the reporters covering the team that it was true. Indeed, some of them even got a bit prickly about it when fans said they weren’t buying it:

It all seemed weird, but Zimmerman broke camp with the team and, about a month into the regular season, a big story came out about how it was all just a novel approach for a veteran in spring training. At that point it made little sense to continue to be skeptical. I mean, what kind of people would continue to lie about such a thing a month after the fact? Especially when, since he was playing, it turned out to be pretty inconsequential?

Based on this report from Jon Heyman today, it’s probably worth asking that question again:

While it was written that the Nats weren’t using Zimmerman in games this spring as a grand experiment to preserve older veterans, and at the least the Nats never corrected the record, the reality is that Zimmerman missed almost all spring training with a calf injury. He got at-bats on the back field in simulated games, but in those at-bats, he just got at-bats and didn’t run to first base, or certainly run the bases. It’s a little unusual this went undetected as some other teams began to wonder whether the Nats’ grand experiment – which wasn’t really an experiment at all – might be worth trying for their own players.

Why on Earth did the Nats lie about this? That’s some downright Soviet stuff right there. I hope the reporters who got duped ask the team about it.

In the meantime, Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .217/.280/.409 and has not played a game since May 9. Viva transparency.

Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.