Nationals

Motte goes 2, makes Cardinals' wait worth it

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Motte goes 2, makes Cardinals' wait worth it

ST. LOUIS (AP) Jason Motte had a lot more time than usual to get ready, learning the plan before the grounds crew took the tarp off the field. It was nice to get some advance notice before going for the first two-inning save of his career under October pressure.

The San Francisco Giants went six up and six down against the St. Louis Cardinals' hard-throwing closer, thrust into an extended appearance by a rain delay that lasted longer than Game 3 of the NLCS. Motte needed just 19 pitches to complete a 3-1 victory that was worth the wait Wednesday night, putting the defending World Series champions up 2-1 in the series against the 2010 World Series titlists.

``I've never had a situation where I've known that far ahead of time,'' said Motte, who has saved both of St. Louis' victories in the NLCS and has three saves in the postseason. ``You know, you're usually watching the game and you prepare yourself that way.

``I went to the bullpen a little early and got my arm loose and I was able to get the job done.''

Rookie Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat of the NLCS after subbing for the injured Carlos Beltran and the Cardinals chased Matt Cain just before a 3 1/2-hour rain delay in the seventh inning.

Beltran strained his left knee running out a double-play ball in the first inning and manager Mike Matheny said he was day to day. He's had issues with the knee throughout the season, but played in 151 games and had 619 at-bats, his most since 2008.

Cardinals pitchers made the lead stand up, beginning with Kyle Lohse, who worked around a season-worst five walks in 5 2-3 innings. The 16-game winner is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA this postseason after escaping several jams, and has allowed two or fewer runs in all three of his starts.

``I made up a word. Grindy, very grindy,'' Lohse said. ``Just one of those days where I knew warming up it was not quite coming out the way I wanted it to.''

Setup man Mitchell Boggs pitched earlier than usual, too, bailing out Edward Mujica. Boggs struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt with two on to end the seventh as the storm approached.

Motte made it a rewarding finish for what remained of a sellout crowd of 45,850 - perhaps a third - in a game that lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes. He was ready to go for Game 4, too.

``I feel great,'' Motte said. ``This time of the year, you're ready to go every single day.''

Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro had two hits and a clean game in the field, two days after Matt Holliday rammed into him breaking up a double play. Manager Bruce Bochy had said there would be no retaliation, and Game 3 was collision and controversy free.

``He was determined to play and made a pretty good recovery,'' Bochy said of Scutaro. ``He played well, got some big hits. It says a lot about his makeup, and how tough he is.''

Cain lost for the second time this postseason, giving up three runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings. The Giants, who entered the game batting just .217 in the postseason, were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners.

Pence, the Giants' fifth-place hitter, also grounded into a double play with runners on first and third in the third and grounded into a force play with a man on to end the fifth.

Except for a hanging slider to Carpenter, Cain was happy with his outing. He's allowed three runs in all three postseason starts.

``I was locating both sides of the plate,'' Cain said. ``Throwing everything for strikes, and getting ahead of guys. This is the best I've felt out of the three starts (this postseason) so far.''

The Cardinals snapped the Giants' five-game road winning streak in the postseason, three of them this year. Bochy waited until after Game 3 to announce Tim Lincecum as his starter for Game 4 against Adam Wainwright, and also said Barry Zito would start ahead of struggling lefty Madison Bumgarner in Game 5 against Lance Lynn.

Lincecum has allowed one run in eight innings in three relief appearances in the postseason.

``I think we feel that it's time to give Madison a little break,'' Bochy said of Bumgarner, who allowed six runs in 3 2-3 innings in Game 1.

Beltran is batting .400 in the postseason with three homers and six RBIs, but Carpenter had big numbers against Cain. Before the homer in the third that put St. Louis up 2-1, he was 4 for 4 for his career against Cain, all four singles.

This one was a much bigger deal, a drive that soared over the Cardinals' bullpen in right field and was estimated at 421 feet.

``All those at-bats were a grind facing him, and it was the same way tonight,'' Carpenter said. ``You don't expect things like that to happen.''

The 26-year-old Carpenter entered the game 1 for 5 in the postseason, all five pinch-hit appearances, with an RBI single in the wild-card playoff against Atlanta. He got 14 of his 46 RBIs in April as the primary sub at first base for injured Lance Berkman.

On Tuesday, Carpenter was among a group of seldom-used hitters trying to stay sharp by facing Jake Westbrook in a simulated game. The rest of the team had the day off.

Umpires called for the tarpaulin right after the Cardinals made it 3-1 on a run-scoring single by Shane Robinson and Cain was lifted.

It was the third game delayed by rain this postseason and a fourth, Game 4 of the Yankees-Tigers ALCS, was postponed later Wednesday night. Two games between the Yankees and Orioles in Baltimore began late because of inclement weather.

The rain intensified less than 10 minutes after the field was covered, chasing most fans who had remained in their seats to that point. Spotters for the National Weather Service reported 60 mph winds in nearby St. Charles County.

A highlight of the delay was a Pac-Man style chase. Ushers pursued and finally apprehended a fan who jumped out of the stands to get a baseball near the warning track in left field, and then jutted in and out of aisles to elude several ushers who had been closing in.

The storm had been widely anticipated. Some forecasts called for a 70 percent chance of rain. Both managers fielded questions Tuesday and Wednesday about whether the probability of precipitation would affect their selection of the starting pitcher.

The Giants entered 70-22 when scoring first, including the postseason, and took the lead in the third on Pablo Sandoval's run-scoring groundout after leadoff hits by Angel Pagan and Scutaro, whose legs looked just fine on an opposite-field double flared just over first baseman Allen Craig's glove.

Beltran leads all players with eight extra-base hits in the 2012 playoffs and is a career .375 hitter in the postseason, highest ever among players with a minimum of 100 at-bats.

NOTES: Danny Cox, who pitched for Cardinals World Series teams in 1985 and 1987, threw a perfect strike on the first pitch. ... Jay, who was hit by a pitch to start the game, was plunked 15 times in the regular season. ... Matheny had 122 lineups during the regular season but has stuck with the same eight throughout the postseason. ... The Cardinals' win ended a streak of scoring at least six runs in the last eight postseason victories dating to Game 3 of the World Series last year, the longest streak of its kind in postseason history. St. Louis entered averaging 7.6 runs in 16 wins the last two postseasons and just 2.3 runs in the 10 losses. ... Carpenter and Pete Kozma are the first Cardinals rookie teammates to homer in the same postseason history. ... David Freese had two hits for St. Louis and is a career .455 hitter (15 for 33) in the NLCS with four homers, four doubles and 11 RBIs.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bolstered their forward depth and its penalty kill by re-signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin before he hit unrestricted free agency next month. 

Washington has officially re-signed forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract extension, a move that goes a long way toward re-establishing a third line that had some openings entering the offseason. 

Hagelin, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 just four days before the NHL trade deadline. Hagelin played primarily on the third line – although injuries in the Stanley Cup playoffs pushed him onto the second line. 

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Hagelin had three goals and 11 assists in 20 regular-season games with the Capitals and became an instant staple on the penalty kill. His 47 minutes, six seconds on the PK in those 20 games were enough to rank sixth among all forwards on the team.

Traded twice last season, Hagelin had a total of five goals and 14 assists with the Capitals, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins in 58 games. He had a sprained knee (medial collateral ligament) with Los Angeles that kept him out for 20 games.  

"[Hagelin] was a good fit,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on April 26. “I thought he fit seamlessly from day one. Really liked him on the third line, the way we used him, we bumped him up obviously with the [T.J.] Oshie injury. Our PK got a lot better. Fits in well with his teammates. It's a really good fit for us, yes." 

The Penguins traded Hagelin to the Kings on Nov. 14. He was a key part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, which came at the expense of Washington in the playoffs each time. 

This was the last year of a four-year, $16 million deal that Hagelin signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015. He was always viewed as a likely trade chip for Los Angeles, which finished in last place in the Pacific Division and eventually flipped him to the Capitals. 

Even after the disappointing first-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Hagelin said he was open to re-signing with the Capitals before he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. His signing follows the trade of defenseman Matt Niskanen on Friday. The NHL Draft is this coming weekend in Vancouver with more moves expected.   

“I liked the fact that I got a good look from the coaches,” Hagelin said on April 26 of his time with the Capitals. “I got to play with good players, I got to play in key situations. I felt comfortable here.”

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