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Cubs fend off no-hit bid, seize NLDS lead

CHICAGO — Dusty Baker called it “hero time,” and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer was heroic. Still, the Chicago Cubs found a way to win.

Prior to Game 3 of the NLDS, with the series tied 1-1 and Scherzer making his first start since he tweaked his hamstring in his final regular-season outing, Baker said it was hero time. Then the Nats skipper watched as his ace allowed just one hit over six-plus innings before leaving with a 1-0 lead.

But it wasn’t enough, as Chicago found a way to claw its way back for a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Ben Zobrist’s seventh-inning double knocked Scherzer out after 98 pitches. Then Albert Almora Jr.’s RBI single off reliever Sammy Solis tied it. Almora’s timely hit brought the Cubs even after they fell behind 1-0 thanks in part to Kyle Schwarber‘s fielding flub in the sixth inning, when he committed two errors on one play to allow Daniel Murphy to reach third with two outs. Murphy then scored the game’s first run when Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI double.

After that, it was a battle of the bullpens, with Chicago and skipper Joe Maddon getting the better end of it. Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Wade Davis combined to pull a complete 180 from Game 2, in which the Cubs’ pen allowed five runs in the eighth inning, by holding the Nats scoreless over the final 3⅓ innings while allowing just one baserunner. The shutdown performance was punctuated by Edwards’ striking out Bryce Harper, who hit a game-tying homer off the Cubs righty in Game 2.

Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo’s bloop single in the bottom of the eighth off southpaw Oliver Perez — brought in expressly for the purpose of retiring the Cubs’ lefty slugger — scored pinch-runner Leonys Martin, who came into the game after Tommy La Stella led off the inning with a pinch-hit walk. That proved to be the winning run.

With the victory, Chicago grabbed a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 on Tuesday. For Tanner Roark, the Nats’ scheduled Game 4 starter, now it’s really hero time.

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