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Gaffe by pinch-running pitcher costs Phillies, Nationals win 5-4

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Gaffe by pinch-running pitcher costs Phillies, Nationals win 5-4

PHILADELPHIA -- Vince Velasquez was aggressive at the wrong time.

Velasquez, a pinch-running pitcher, was called out for leaving second base early while tagging up, resulting in a game-ending double play that gave the Washington Nationals a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

After Aaron Nola outpitched Max Scherzer for the second time in six days in a matchup of NL Cy Young Award contenders, the Phillies watched Washington rally for three runs in the ninth to take a 5-3 lead.

Wilson Ramos got Philadelphia within a run with a pinch-hit double in the bottom half, and Velasquez ran for the catcher. Greg Holland relieved and retired Jorge Alfaro on a fly ball to center, with Velasquez moving to third as the potential tying run. Velasquez slid past the bag but wasn't tagged.

The Nationals, however, appealed that Velasquez left too soon, and he was called out. A replay upheld the ruling.

"I wasn't nervous. I was trying to put pressure on the outfielder," Velasquez said.

Manager Gabe Kapler told Velasquez after the game he should've stayed on second.

"He's an inexperienced runner who gave us a valiant effort," Kapler said. "He got overzealous."

Anthony Rendon hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Pat Neshek (1-1) in the Nationals ninth. The Nationals trailed 3-2 when Bryce Harper drew a leadoff walk from Tommy Hunter. Neshek surrendered Rendon's 17th homer, and Washington added another run on an error after Ryan Zimmerman hit his third double of the game and stole third.

"I was just trying to see a pitch to hit," Rendon said about connecting on a 1-2 slider.

It was the latest gut-wrenching loss for the Phillies, who are 6-13 since Aug. 8 and fell 4 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.

"It's a super difficult loss to swallow," Kapler said. "I don't worry about this group. They're tenacious and resilient."

Alfaro and Odubel Herrera hit homers off Scherzer to hand Nola a 3-0 lead. But poor defense and a shaky bullpen blew it.

Nola gave up two runs -- one earned -- and four hits, striking out eight in seven innings. He threw eight dominant innings in Philadelphia's 2-0 win at Washington last Thursday.

Scherzer gave up three runs and four hits in five innings, tying for his shortest outing of the season on April 4 at Atlanta.

"It was awesome," Scherzer said of the comeback. "A great team win."

Herrera, who hit a two-run shot off Scherzer last week, gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Batting cleanup for the first time in his career, Herrera drove a 2-2 fastball into the right-field seats for his 21st homer. Alfaro connected in the fifth.

Nola took a shutout into the seventh before Rendon led off with a single and Zimmerman hit a double with one out. Matt Wieters followed with a grounder to first. Carlos Santana stepped on the bag for the second out but made an errant throw home allowing Zimmerman to also score.

Koda Glover (1-2) tossed a scoreless eighth for the win.

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Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounds off on Max Scherzer's stance that players already took a pay cut

Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounds off on Max Scherzer's stance that players already took a pay cut

One days after Nationals ace Max Scherzer released a statement saying MLB players had no reason to engage the league in further compensation reductions, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounded off on the stance.

Scherzer, a member of the players’ union’s eight-member executive subcommittee, said in his statement Wednesday that players had already negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries. “There’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received,” he said.

[RELATED: Scherzer continues to steer union on a united front]

Kay took to his ESPN radio show Thursday to say Scherzer is incorrect.

“The one thing that I want to amplify, I’m not on either side. The players are taking a chance by playing during a pandemic, the owners are taking a financial chance,” Kay said. “But when the players, and this is something that Max Scherzer said, when the players say they’ve taken a pay cut … Stop! You have not taken a pay cut. You have not worked. You have not played. You don’t deserve to get paid. That’s all there is to it. So that’s not a pay cut.”

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The original pay cut Scherzer was referring to is the deal negotiated between the league and union in March, which prorated player salaries. But a recent proposal from MLB owners would further reduce salaries, placing them into tiers where the highest-paid players would have their salaries cut the most.

Under the new proposal, Scherzer would make around $4.333 million of his $28,777,759 million base salary. Stephen Strasburg would make just $5.313 million of his $35 million base salary.

Kay contends the original deal from March wasn’t a pay cut.

“You can make the argument, ‘Well, it’s guaranteed money.’ Well, the owners aren’t locking you out. The virus is locking you out,” he said. “We’re not playing baseball because of health concerns, because people are dying all around the country to the tune of over 100,000 people. Please don’t say you took a pay cut. You didn’t take a pay cut.”

Kay added that he is contracted to work 135 Yankees games this season for YES Network, but said he wouldn’t look at it as a pay cut if games were canceled and he wasn’t paid.

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Nationals' Sean Doolittle makes statement on death of George Floyd

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Nationals' Sean Doolittle makes statement on death of George Floyd

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle released a statement on Twitter on the death of George Floyd. 

Floyd, a black man, died in police custody after a police officer kept his knee on his neck for several minutes. His death has sparked civil unrest in Minneapolis, MN and in several other areas across the country.

Doolittle's screengrab text read: 

Racism is America's Original Sin. It was here before we even forged a nation, and has been passed down from generation to generation. And we still struggle to acknowledge that it even exists, much less atone for it. The generational trauma of racism and violence is killing black men and women before our eyes. We are told it is done in the name of, "law and order", but there is nothing lawful nor orderly about these murders.

My heart is heavy knowing that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others should still be alive. We must not look away from the racism and the violence. We must never condone racism or extrajudicial violence in the name of "law and order." We must take action and call it out for what it is. We must recognize our shared humanity and atone for our Original Sin or else we will continue to curse future generations with it. RIP George Floyd. 

Earlier this week Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal was among several athletes that tweeted about Floyd's death.