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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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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.