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Nationals take 2-0 lead in NLCS with 3-1 win over Cardinals

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Backed by six no-hit innings from Max Scherzer and several well-placed hits from Michael Taylor and Adam Eaton, the Nationals defeated the Cardinals 3-1 during Game 2 of the NLCS. With the win, Washington advanced to a two-game lead in the series, with just two more wins needed to qualify for the World Series.

Max Scherzer started the game strong with six hitless innings, allowing just two walks and striking out 10 of the first 20 batters he faced. According to Elias Sports and MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, he became the first pitcher to register five separate no-hit attempts of 5+ innings in the postseason. He lost the attempt in the top of the seventh, however, as Paul Goldschmidt picked up a slider and returned it to left field for the Cardinals’ first hit of the afternoon.

Despite losing a second consecutive no-hit attempt, the Nationals managed to stay one step ahead of the Cardinals. Michael A. Taylor belted a first-pitch, leadoff home run off of Adam Wainwright in the third for an early lead, and Adam Eaton supplied a two-run double in the eighth to give the club some extra support. That came in handy as José Martínez caused some trouble for Sean Doolittle in the bottom of the inning, delivering a two-out, two-run double to snap the Cardinals’ scoreless streak and bring them within a couple runs of tying the game.

They didn’t quite get there in the end. Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson worked in tandem to retire the side in the ninth and capture the Nationals’ second straight win of the series. Per MLB Stats, the win cemented the Nationals’ status as the first NL team to give up three or fewer hits in back-to-back postseason games since the Reds held the Giants to five collective hits in Games 2 and 3 of the 2012 NLDS.

The tide could still shift in the Cardinals’ favor on Monday night, when the series will move to Nationals Park for Games 3 and 4 (and a potential Game 5, if the Cardinals can avoid a sweep). They’ll send right-hander Jack Flaherty up against fellow righty Stephen Strasburg at 7:38 PM EDT.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.