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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.

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.