Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer carry Nationals into NLDS Game 5

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Ryan Zimmerman creamed a three-run homer and Max Scherzer gutted out seven strong innings to lead the Nationals past the Dodgers 6-1 in Game 4 of the NLDS to even the series and force a decisive Game 5.

The Dodgers got on the board first when Justin Turner slugged a solo home run over the bullpen in left field off of Max Scherzer. That would, however, be the extent of the damage the Dodgers’ offense would do against Scherzer.

The Nationals evened things up in the bottom of the third against Rich Hill when Anthony Rendon lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Michael A. Taylor. Hill would then walk Juan Soto before being removed from the game. Kenta Maeda got the final out of the third. Hill’s final line: 2 2/3 innings, one run on two hits and four walks with two strikeouts.

Maeda, who has been outstanding thus far in the postseason, tossed a clean fourth, then handed the ball to Julio Urías for the fifth. Trea Turner reached on a leadoff single, then moved to second base on Adam Eaton‘s sacrifice bunt and promptly scored on Rendon’s RBI single to center field to put the Nationals ahead 2-1. The Nationals kept the inning going when Howie Kendrick lined a single to left field. Manager Dave Roberts brought in right-hander Pedro Báez to face veteran Ryan Zimmerman with the platoon advantage, but it didn’t work out. After taking a first-pitch slider for a strike, Zimmerman blasted a high fastball out to center field for a three-run home run, boosting the Nationals lead to 5-1.

The Nationals tacked on one more run in the sixth. Turner hit a ground-rule double to center field which was horribly misplayed by Cody Bellinger. Turner scampered all the way to third base but had to go back to second base because the ball got stuck under the padding attached to the wall. Nevertheless, Turner moved to third base on an Eaton grounder and scored on a Rendon sacrifice fly. Sounds familiar.

Scherzer got into big trouble in the top of the seventh, allowing a one-out single followed by two walks to load the bases. He bounced back, striking out pinch-hitter Chris Taylor on a full count, then getting Joc Pederson to ground out weakly to the right side to end the inning. On 109 pitches across seven innings, Scherzer allowed the lone run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.

Sean Doolittle took over for the start of the eighth for the Nats. With a couple of fly outs and a ground out, the lefty worked a 1-2-3 inning. Dustin May did the same for the Dodgers in the bottom half to quickly send the game into the ninth inning.

Doolittle remained in the game, getting Corey Seager to pop up to begin the ninth. After right-hander David Freese was announced as a pinch-hitter, manager Dave Martinez called on Daniel Hudson out of the bullpen for the final two outs. After giving up an infield single to Freese, Hudson struck out Gavin Lux and got Will Smith to fly out to right field to cement the 6-1 victory and even the series at 2-2.

A winner will be decided on Wednesday in Los Angeles as the Nationals and Dodgers do battle in Game 5 of the NLDS. Stephen Strasburg will square off against Walker Buehler.

Royals’ John Sherman optimistic about new ballpark, current team

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first thing that Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman thinks about when he wakes up each morning is how the club, stuck in what seems like an interminable rebuild, will play on that particular day.

Not where they will play four or five years down the road.

Yet given the modest expectations for a team that lost nearly 100 games a year ago, it makes sense many Royals fans are just as interested – quite possibly more so – in the plans for a downtown ballpark than whether infielder Bobby Witt Jr. can double down on his brilliant rookie season or pitcher Brady Singer can truly become a staff ace.

That’s why Sherman’s second thought probably moves to the downtown ballpark, too.

“This is a huge decision, and I look at it as maybe the most important decision we’ll make as long as we have the privilege of stewarding this team,” Sherman said before the Royals held a final workout Wednesday ahead of opening day. “I’m probably as anxious as you to get moving on that, but it’s a complicated process.”

The Royals have called Kauffman Stadium home since the sister to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, opened 50 years ago next month.

And while most stadiums are replaced because they have become outdated, the unique, space-aged look of Kauffman Stadium – built during an era in which teams trended toward impersonal, multisport concrete donuts for their homes – remains beloved by Royals fans and visitors alike.

The problem is that despite numerous renovations over the years, the very concrete holding the ballpark together has begun to crumble in places. The cost simply to repair and maintain the ballpark has become prohibitive.

So with the decision essentially made for them to build an entirely new stadium, the Royals revealed plans to build an entire development in the same mold of The Battery Atlanta, where the Braves built Truist Park, and the Ballpark Village in St. Louis, where the new Busch Stadium is merely the centerpiece of a whole entertainment district.

No site has been secured, but several of the most promising are in downtown Kansas City, where the Power & Light District along with T-Mobile Center have spearheaded a successful era of urban renewal.

Sherman has said that private funds would cover the majority of the stadium cost and the entire village, each carrying a price tag of about $1 billion.

But if any public funding will be used, as it was to build and maintain Kauffman Stadium, then it would need to be voted upon, and the earliest that it could show up on a ballot would be August.

“You look at Atlanta, they took some raw ground – they started with 85 acres – and that has been a complete home run,” said Sherman, who purchased the Royals in August 2019, shortly before the pandemic wreaked havoc on team finances.

“This is one of the reasons we want to do this: That’s helped the Braves become more competitive,” Sherman said of the vast potential for increased revenue for one of the smallest-market teams in baseball. “They have locked up and extended the core of their future, and the Braves are in a great position from a baseball standpoint.”

So perhaps the first two thoughts Sherman has each day – about performance and the future – are one and the same.

When it comes to the team itself, the Royals were largely quiet throughout the winter, though that was by design.

Rather than spending heavily on free agents that might help them win a few more games, they decided to stay the course with a promising young roster in the hopes that the development of those players would yield better results.

In fact, Sherman said, the club has been discussing extensions for some of the Royals’ foundational pieces – presumably Witt, who was fourth in voting for AL rookie of the year, and Singer, who was 10-5 with a 3.23 ERA last season.

“We’re having conversations about that as we speak,” Sherman said. “We have a number of young players that we’re trying to evaluate and we’re talking to their representatives about what might work.”

Just because the Royals’ roster largely looks the same, that doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The Royals fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore in September and moved J.J. Picollo to the role, then fired manager Mike Matheny in October and replaced him with longtime Indians and Rays coach Matt Quatraro.

Sherman said the new voices created a palpable energy in spring training that he hopes carries into the regular season.

“When we acquired the team, we had three primary objectives,” Sherman said. “One was to win more games; we’re working on that. The second was to secure the future; that’s what (the stadium) is. And the third was to do good in the community.

“But the first priority,” he said, “is really the on-field product. That’s what really lifts everything else up.”