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Old 10-08-2017, 07:03 AM
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Default Nationals 6 Cubs 3 ( NLDS Game 2)
The Nationals got two big-time home runs in the eighth inning Saturday night to steal Game 2 from the Cubs, 6-3. This evens the best-of-five NLDS, 1-1.
Here are 10 things to know.

Nationals offense dormant until late
The Nationals only managed two singles in Game 1. In Game 2, they had just two hits entering the eighth inning and then absolutely exploded. Adam Lind (more on his appearance later) singled to start the inning. Bryce Harper then destroyed a one-out, two-run home run to tie the game, and the once nearly-silent ballpark finally came alive.

The Nats were far from done. Anthony Rendon drew a walk before Daniel Murphy singled to left and then Ryan Zimmerman clubbed a three-run home run.

The Nationals went 16 innings with just four hits and one run. In the eighth inning of Game 2, they scored five runs on six hits.

Harper erases concerns?
Through his first seven at-bats of the series, Bryce Harper hadn't really hit the ball hard. He had one hit, but it was a soft liner to right field. Otherwise he didn't really look like himself. Given that he was coming off a major knee injury and was 3 for 18 upon his return in the regular season to close things out, concern started to seep in that maybe he wasn't really himself.

Cubs starters have been outstanding
Much of the focus on starting pitching heading into this series -- and rightfully so -- was on the Nationals' big three of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. It made sense. The three are likely to finish in the top six (maybe five) of NL Cy Young voting.

In this series so far, though, it's been the Cubs' arms are the forefront. Between Kyle Hendricks in Game 1 and Jon Lester in Game 2, the Cubs' two starters in the series thus far has given up just four hits and one earned run in 13 innings. Lester wasn't quite as dominant and in control as Hendricks, but in the end the only run he allowed was a solo homer in the first inning to Rendon that wasn't hit all that hard.

Lester has had issues in the first inning for much of the season and that was the case with the solo shot in Game 2, but then he went into playoff mode. Lester now has a 2.58 ERA in 139 2/3 career postseason innings. Time and again, Lester has stepped up in the playoffs in his career, and Game 2 was yet another example.

The Cubs' bullpen has issues
The Cubs' bullpen in the first half was outstanding and one of the best in baseball. In the second half, it was a different story. The bullpen posted a 4.48 ERA after the All-Star break. Cubs manager Joe Maddon ran through a bunch of different options for the seventh and eighth innings and has settled on Pedro Strop for the seventh and Carl Edwards Jr. for the eighth. Edwards has been good overall in 2017 and was great in Game 1, but he also had a few meltdowns this season. He blew the save in this one before Mike Montgomery relieved him to cough up the game.

Overall, the Cubs have talent in the bullpen, but it's been pretty volatile in the second half. There will be some games like on Friday where the door is completely shut and others like Saturday where the opposing team storms through and steals the game.

Nationals bullpen comes up huge
It's probably a bit under the radar, given the fireworks in the eighth inning, but Nationals relievers Matt Albers, Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson, Oliver Perez and Sean Doolittle combed to allow just three hits in four scoreless innings after a mediocre start from Gio Gonzalez. That's some pretty stellar work against an offense as talented as the Cubs.
Bryzzo could use some help

Through two games in this series, the Cubs have scored six runs on 11 hits. Anthony Rizzo is 3 for 8 with two runs and four RBI. Kris Bryant is 3 for 8 with two runs and an RBI. Willson Contreras contributed a solo homer on Saturday, but otherwise "Bryzzo" has had its hands on every single Cubs run scored.
Bryant and Rizzo are 6 for 16 in the series. The rest of the Cubs are 5 for 44 (.114)

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