...but an even more unlikely hero lifts the Nats

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...but an even more unlikely hero lifts the Nats

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookies in the postseason, the Washington Nationals played like poised veterans.The Nationals escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, Tyler Moore blooped a two-out, two-run single in the eighth and Washington beat the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday in an NL playoff opener.They have just four players with postseason experience on the roster. But they have the lead."Not many people have probably watched too many Nationals games, but we have a great starting rotation and a great bullpen," said Ian Desmond, who singled for his third hit in the go-ahead rally. "They keep us in the ballgame and some timely hits from this kid, and the rest of the guys coming off the bench, that's really been the formula."The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild start by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. They limited the Cardinals to just three hits."All the credit in the world goes to the bullpen," Gonzalez said. "I've been saying it all year. The reason why we've been so successful is these guys come in and shut it down."Rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to bail out the Nationals in the seventh with St. Louis ahead 2-1. Moore, another rookie, put them ahead soon after that, Tyler Clippard worked around an error in the eighth and Drew Storen saved it with a 1-2-3 ninth.The NL East champion Nationals led the majors with 98 wins this season, and brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933. The Nats go for a 2-0 series lead Monday when Jordan Zimmermann opposes Jaime Garcia."This team is not hanging our heads," St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said. "We can come back and win this easily."The Cardinals made it to the best-of-five division series by beating Atlanta in the wild-card matchup Friday. But St. Louis wasted a 10-strikeout gem by Wainwright, failing to capitalize enough on Gonzalez's career high-tying seven walks and frustrating its towel-waving fans.Mattheus diffused a bases-loaded, none-out threat in the seventh, getting cleanup man Allen Craig to ground into a forceout at the plate and then inducing a double-play grounder from Yadier Molina. Craig led the National League with a .400 average with runners in scoring position and Molina batted .321 in those situations."It was a big moment," Mattheus said. "It gave us life. The guys said, Hey, we can win this ballgame.'"A standing room crowd of 47,078, among the largest at 7-year-old Busch Stadium, bundled up for a game that began in 54-degree chill and featured kaleidoscope late-afternoon shadows that bedeviled hitters for several innings."It was pretty bad, but you have to make adjustments and that's what I did," Molina said. "But what are you going to do? Quit? No."Third-place hitter Matt Holliday chimed in his complaints about facing Gonzalez: "He's hard to hit when you can see well and even harder when you can't."Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder for an error to open the eighth and set up the Nationals' go-ahead rally. Desmond followed with a single off Mitchell Boggs, putting runners at the corners.Danny Espinsoa sacrificed, leaving runners at second and third, and Kurt Suzuki struck out. In a series of moves, the Nationals sent up Chad Tracy to pinch hit, the Cardinals switched to lefty Marc Rzepczynski and Washington subbed in Moore, who had two of their three pinch homers this season.Rzepczynski pretty much hit his location but Moore poked it to right field and both runners scored easily."I was just trying to calm myself down and try to make some things happen and not strike out up there," Moore said. "I wanted to at least put something into play."Nationals manager Davey Johnson doesn't usually play small ball but opted for the bunt because Espinosa had been having a tough game."I'm kind of from the Earl Weaver school, just keep swinging," Johnson said. "Don't like to steal that much, either. I don't like to give up outs."Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to reach double digits in strikeouts since Bob Gibson also fanned 10 to beat the Tigers in Game 4 of the 1968 World Series.Wainwright was a 14-game winner coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him all of 2011, with 10 of the wins coming at home. He's been a postseason ace with a microscopic 0.77 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings.He fanned Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman twice each and seventh-place hitter Espinosa all three times."My fastball command kind of left me at the end," Wainwright said. "For the most part I felt like I went out there and competed my tail off. Gave it everything I had."Gonzalez allowed just one hit in five innings, on David Freese's full-count bouncer between third and short to start the fourth. But he had trouble finding catcher Kurt Suzuki's glove and keeping warm."I kept blowing in my hand, kept looking to do whatever I could to throw a strike," Gonzalez said.The second inning was Gonzalez' shakiest when he allowed the Cardinals to score twice and take the lead without a hit. Gonzalez walked four of the first five hitters, putting St. Louis in position to score one run on a wild pitch and a second on Jon Jay's bases-loaded sacrifice fly."The whole time I was just saying minimize the damage because things were spinning out of control. I just wanted to match everything Wainwright did. I was trying to keep up with him."Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth robbed Daniel Descalso of a two-run homer off with a leaping catch to keep it at 2-1 in the sixth. Descalso had a fielding gem of his own in the seventh, ranging far to his left to glove Harper's grounder and then throwing him out by a few steps.NOTES:The Cardinals went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. ... Garcia was 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA in nine starts at home. The lefty has a 2.48 career ERA at Busch. ... Gonzalez also walked seven on June 11, 2011, when he was with Oakland against the White Sox. ... Kozma committed one error in 26 games after taking over as the regular SS in September for injured Rafael Furcal.

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Wieters two-run HR propels Orioles past Blue Jays

Wieters two-run HR propels Orioles past Blue Jays

BALTIMORE—It’s silly to label games as “must win” when 30 still remain to be played. But, after the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of a three-game series, they fell a season-high four games behind in the American League East. 

Sure, the Orioles have mathematically been in the postseason picture in each of their first 132 games, but in the past two weeks, their place got a lot more tenuous. 

On Tuesday night, they made sure they’d stay relevant for a while longer by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 before 16,083 at Oriole Park. 

With the win, the Orioles (72-60) moved back to within three games of the Blue Jays (75-57) in the American League East.

It was Matt Wieters who broke a 3-all tie in the eighth inning with a two-run home run. 

It was Ubaldo Jimenez, who many fans feared would have little chance against a legitimate American League Cy Young Award candidate, J.A. Happ. 

Jimenez actually outpitched Happ, and only a two-run home run by Michael Saunders in the seventh prevented him from getting the win.

“It feels really good. It’s something I wanted to do since the beginning of the year. I wasn’t able to but I never give up. I always figure out a way to get up and be there for the team and I’ve been able to be there for him the last two games. Hopefully it keeps going,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez is filling in for Chris Tillman, who is on the disabled list.

“He’s had two good outings in a row in a time of need. Real proud of him. He was solid. He had a lot of pitches could have gone his way, a lot of borderline pitches. He was down in the zone almost the whole game. The one he got up was the home run to Saunders. But he was solid. You can say a lot of different things about things that happened in the game, but none of it means anything if we don’t get that type of start from him,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

Jonathan Schoop walked against Jason Grilli (4-2) with two outs in the eighth and then Wieters hit his 12th home run, and the Orioles had a 5-3 lead.

“It’s a big game. We’re going to be playing a lot of teams in the division, so there are going to be a lot of big games. I think the key is to be able to enjoy this one and move on tomorrow. We’ve got to come back and win another one tomorrow,” Wieters said. 

Brad Brach (8-2) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 39th consecutive save. 

Brach often seems to be the beneficiary when the Orioles pull off a late-inning win. Is he just in the right place at the right time? 

“Some of it is, but most of it is because he’s good. And most of it is we like him in there with the game on the line,” Showalter said. “It’s so hard to be consistently contributing and being there for us as Brad and Zach have been all year. Nothing about the ninth inning is ho-hum either. This is a very good ball club over there and you got to keep your foot on them when you got them down."

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Jimenez lasted one-third of an inning when he last started against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 12. This was much better. 

Toronto scored a run in the second when Saunders doubled and scored on Kevin Pillar’s two-out single. 

The Orioles scored three in the fifth on Steve Pearce’s 13th home run and Manny Machado’s 32nd, the 100th home run of Machado’s major league career. He’s the youngest Oriole to do so.

"It’s a big number. It’s a huge number. Not a lot of guys have 100. To get to that milestone is something that I’m never going to forget. And just getting this W. Every time I get a milestone or something, (if) it comes out with a W it just makes it a lot better,” Machado said.

“To come out with a W on top of your accomplishments. It’s very humbling. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. It’s not like I’m sitting around, not doing anything. Everyone in here works to get to certain situations and I finally got to one. I reached one, I could knock it out, knock it out of my checklist. Now is a time to keep playing baseball and try to knock out another one off my checklist, which is to try to help this team get somewhere that it hasn’t been in a long time.”

NOTE… Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.99) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-6, 5.69) on Wednesday night. 

 

 

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Scherzer dominant as Nationals edge Phillies 3-2

Scherzer dominant as Nationals edge Phillies 3-2

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Max Scherzer didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and he was dominant through eight as the Washington Nationals continued their mastery of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-7) allowed three hits and struck out 11 while walking one. He was perfect through the first four innings, striking out five consecutive batters -- all swinging -- between the second and third innings.

Ryan Howard, who got the start despite being 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer coming in, hit an opposite-field two-run home run in the seventh inning to break up the shutout and pull the Phillies within 3-2.

But Scherzer closed the door from there, striking out three more in the seventh and eighth en route to his 15th win of the season.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 37th save, getting a strikeout and inducing a game-ending double play after issuing a leadoff walk.

Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera collected the only other hits for the Phillies, who have lost six of eight to fall 12 games below .500. They have dropped their last eight games to Washington, which matches the team record for consecutive losses vs. the Nationals/Expos franchise.

Scherzer, who pitched two no-hitters last season, didn't allow a runner to reach base until Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp walked with one out in the fifth. Galvis ripped a double to right-field to lead off the sixth to break up Scherzer's no-hit bid, but was picked off second base by Scherzer to end the scoring threat.

Scherzer has allowed just five hits in his last two starts after pitching a two-hit, eight-inning gem vs. Baltimore on Thursday. He's taken a no-hitter into the sixth in nine of his 61 all-time starts with the Nationals.

The Washington ace also had a sacrifice-bunt RBI in the fourth after Ryan Zimmerman walked and Danny Espinosa ripped a single. The inning ended when Espinoza was thrown out at the plate on a dart from Phillies right fielder Aaron Altherr with Espinoza colliding with Rupp on the play.

The Nationals staked Scherzer to an early lead in the first inning. With two outs and nobody on, Daniel Murphy doubled before scoring on a double by Bryce Harper, his 19th RBI in the last 19 games. Wilson Ramos brought Harper home with an RBI single to put the Nats ahead 2-0.

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff (9-13), who walked just six batters in his last eight starts coming in, issued three walks and allowed five hits and three earned runs through six innings.

Scherzer's double-digit strikeout game was the 12th of the season, setting a Nationals record. He improved his career record to 7-1 against the Phillies, including a 6-0 mark since he joined the Nats in 2015.

The Nationals, who opened their six-game road trip with a 4-0 victory over the Phillies on Monday, are 7-1 at Citizens Bank Park this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: Peter Bourjois missed his second straight game after getting hit in the left wrist by a pitch Sunday.

UP NEXT

The Phillies and Nationals wrap up their three-game series Wednesday night with Philadelphia LHP Adam Morgan (1-8, 6.50) opposing LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-9, 4.25).

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Former Terp Shaun Hill could be in line to start after Teddy Bridgewater injury

Former Terp Shaun Hill could be in line to start after Teddy Bridgewater injury

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee along with a completely torn ACL and "other structural damage," the team announced on Tuesday evening. 

With the injury almost undoubtedly ending Bridgewater's season, the football question begins to arise. Who will play quarterback in Minnesota? The answer could be former Maryland Terrapin.

Shaun Hill, a veteran journeyman, could be the next in line, barring a move by Minnesota to acquire another quarterback. 

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As currently constituted, Hill is on the roster along with former Wisconsin QB Joel Stave and former Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke.

Hill, 36, came in for the injured Bridgewater last season against St. Louis after the quarterback left the game with a concussion. Minnesota would win, 21-18, in overtime.

Hill has played for four teams during his NFL career -- the Vikings, 49ers, Rams, and Lions. He has thrown for more than 8,000 total yards and has a career passer rating of 85.2.

Before turning pro, he helped Maryland to the 2001 ACC title as a senior. The Terrapins would reach the 2002 Orange Bowl and end the season ranked No. 10 overall.