John Brebbia

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Nationals dominate Cardinals 8-1 to take 3-0 NLCS lead

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The Nationals are one win away from reaching the World Series after defeating the Cardinals 8-1 in NLCS Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon led the way on offense while Stephen Strasburg dominated on the mound.

Adam Eaton opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning against Jack Flaherty. Victor Robles led off with a single and advanced to second base on Strasburg’s sacrifice bunt. After Trea Turner struck out on a foul tip, Adam Eaton grounded a ball up the middle to plate Robles. The rally continued as Anthony Rendon dunked a weak fly ball to shallow left field that Marcell Ozuna was unable to handle, allowing a hustling Eaton to score all the way from first base. Juan Soto walked, then he and Rendon advanced on a wild pitch by Flaherty — though it should’ve been a passed ball on catcher Yadier Molina. Howie Kendrick brought both runners home with a sharp line drive double to right-center, upping the lead to 4-0.

Two more runs touched home in the fifth. Rendon hit a one-out single, then Kendrick ripped a double to left-center off of reliever John Brebbia to make it 5-0. Ryan Zimmerman then knocked Kendrick in with a double of his own to left field.

Flaherty ended the night allowing four runs on five hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts over four innings.

Robles, making his first start since injuring his hamstring in Game 2 of the NLDS, swatted a solo homer to the opposite field off of Brebbia in the sixth for good measure, putting the Nationals up by a touchdown and an extra point.

The Cardinals, held scoreless in Game 1 and to one run in Game 2, weren’t able to figure out Strasburg until the seventh inning. José Martínez and Yadier Molina hit back-to-back singles to open the frame. Then, with one out, Paul DeJong lined a single to left field. Soto came up ready to fire home, which likely would have kept Martínez at third base and the bases loaded. However, Soto slipped and fell during his crow hop, then fired a throw home way wide of the plate. Martínez scored the Cardinals’ first run of the game. Strasburg bounced back with consecutive strikeouts of Matt Wieters and Dexter Fowler to escape the seventh.

Strasbug allowed the one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts over his seven innings of work. An interesting note, per MLB’s Daren Willman: none of Strasburg’s strikeouts came on his fastball. Eight were on the change-up and four on the curve.

After Strasburg’s night was done, the Nationals continued to rally. Another Howie Kendrick double — his third of the night — and a Zimmerman single to left field off of Daniel Ponce de Leon made it 8-1.

Fernando Rodney took over in the eighth with a comfortable seven-run cushion. He got Kolten Wong to fly out, then struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Ozuna for a 1-2-3 inning. That was Goldschmidt’s fourth strikeout of the night. He hadn’t even struck out three times in 15 postseason games prior to Monday. He wore the golden sombrero just eight times in 1,253 career regular season games.

Tanner Rainey got the ninth inning. The right-hander struck out Martínez and Molina, then got Tommy Edman to fly out to left field to end the game. Nats win 8-1, got up 3-0 in the NLCS.

The Nationals will try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the NLCS. Patrick Corbin will take on Dakota Hudson. First pitch is slated for 8:05 PM at Nationals Park.