Stephen Strasburg
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Stephen Strasburg dominates Dodgers in NLDS Game 2 victory

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Just one day removed from a painful Game 1 shutout in Los Angeles, the Nationals picked themselves back up with a decisive 4-2 victory over the Dodgers on Friday. Thanks to a tremendous effort from Stephen Strasburg and several key plays by Anthony Rendon and Asdrubal Cabrera, they held the NL West contenders at bay long enough to even the National League Division Series, 1-1.

With All-Star hurler and former three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw pitted against former All-Star Stephen Strasburg, Game 2 of the NLDS promised a bonafide pitcher’s duel — and it didn’t disappoint. Kershaw went six strong innings, scattering three runs, a walk, and four strikeouts in his first postseason outing since he pitched back-to-back losses in the 2018 World Series.

The only thing missing was some pivotal run support, something even Kershaw couldn’t muster as Juan Soto robbed him of a line drive base hit with a terrific diving catch. Try as they might, the Dodgers just couldn’t get ahead of Strasburg, who one-upped Kershaw’s efforts with six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball. According to MLB Stats, his lights-out performance cemented him as the only pitcher in MLB history with 10+ strikeouts in three of his first four playoff appearances. He also beat out Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax’s record for lowest postseason ERA (0.64 to 0.95, minimum four starts).

The Nationals’ offense, meanwhile, kept them a step ahead of their rivals after they broke out for an early lead. Howie Kendrick plated a run with an RBI single in the top of the first inning — his first postseason RBI since the 2015 NLDS (when, funnily enough, he collected three RBI for the Dodgers) — while Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the second. The Dodgers eventually spoiled Strasburg’s shutout in the sixth, as Justin Turner eked out a sac fly to get the team on the board and Max Muncy followed up with a solo shot off of Sean Doolittle in the seventh, but it wasn’t quite enough to bridge the gap.

After Doolittle wrapped the seventh inning, the Nationals tabbed Game 3 starter Max Scherzer for a rare relief appearance in the eighth. He did so with aplomb, whiffing Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, and Joc Pederson in order and preserving the club’s tenuous two-run lead. In the ninth, he was swiftly replaced by Daniel Hudson, who allowed a leadoff double, intentionally walked the tying run, and loaded the bases before finalizing the win with a game-ending strikeout to Corey Seager.

Los Angeles will look to regain its foothold in the series on Sunday, when lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu will begin Game 3 at 7:45 PM EDT. Given Scherzer’s last-minute appointment on Friday, it’s unclear whether he’ll be sent back out for another full outing on Sunday. If so, it’ll mark his first formal start since the NL Wild Card Game, during which he claimed his first win after tossing five innings of three-run, six-strikeout ball against the Brewers.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: