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Ryan Zimmerman belts three-run homer to pad Nationals’ lead in NLDS Game 4

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Ryan Zimmerman made his second start of the postseason in Game 4 of the NLDS on Monday night against the Dodgers. Manager Dave Martinez was rewarded for going with the veteran as Zimmerman crushed a Pedro Báez fastball out to center field for a three-run home run in the fifth inning, padding the Nationals’ lead to 5-1.

Zimmerman, 35, is likely playing out the remainder of his Nationals career, as the club holds an $18 million option for 2020 that they are likely to instead buy out for $2 million. Signs are pointing towards him hitting free agency next month. Tonight’s home run was one more item on his lengthy Nationals résumé. 2019 marked his 15th season in the majors with the Nationals. Over that span of time, Zimmerman compiled an .818 OPS during the regular season with 401 doubles, 270 homers, and 1,015 runs batted in.

The Nationals are hoping to force a Game 5 against the Dodgers by winning tonight. They entered the night trailing 2-1 in the series.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.