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Joc Pederson’s 3-run HR, Atlanta Braves blank Milwaukee Brewers for 2-1 NLDS lead

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ATLANTA, Ga. — Joc Pederson credits his postseason success to “not making any moment bigger than it needs to be.”

With another jolt, Pederson put the Atlanta Braves on the verge of advancing in the playoffs.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson (36) works against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Pederson kept enhancing his “Joctober” nickname with a three-run, pinch-hit homer and the Braves shut down Milwaukee once again, beating the Brewers 3-0 on Monday to take a 2-1 edge in the NL Division Series.

“It was pretty special,” Pederson said of the fifth-inning drive. “To come up big in a moment like that was pretty cool.”

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich, left and other players watch the game during the ninth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 3-0. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In a matchup dominated by pitching, Ian Anderson and the Braves bullpen combined on a five-hitter and won by a 3-0 score for the second straight game.

Boosted by shortstop Dansby Swanson’s athletic defense, Atlanta can try to reach its second straight NL Championship Series when it hosts Game 4 on Tuesday.

Atlanta Braves closer Will Smith (51) celebrates after the ninth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 3-0. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Pederson’s homer was his second of the series, both as a pinch-hitter against Adrian Houser. Pederson singled as a pinch-hitter in his only other at-bat in this series, and has driven in four of Atlanta’s seven runs.

Pederson has hit 11 postseason home runs overall and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series last year with his longballs. He then signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs in the winter and was traded to Atlanta in July.

Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) is attended to after an injury while trying to make a catch against Atlanta Braves’ Adam Duvall during the fourth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“He’s been in the big moment, the big stage, and he’s performed and guys appreciate that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Since winning the opening game of the series, the NL Central champion Brewers have not scored in 19 consecutive innings. They were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in this loss.

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Luis Urias (2) is tagged out by Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley (27) after he was caught in a rundown during the fifth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Asked about the poorly timed offensive slump, manager Craig Counsell said, “We’re in it. I thought we swung the bats better today. … We’ve got to catch a break, frankly.”

Anderson was dominant for the NL East champion Braves, allowing three hits over five innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Will Smith, the fourth Braves reliever, pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.

Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames (27) waits for play to resume during the eighth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta pitched four scoreless innings and was pulled for a pinch-hitter when the Brewers threatened in the fifth.

Houser gave up singles to Travis d’Arnaud and Swanson to open the fifth. Pederson, hitting for Anderson, pulled a high, inside fastball deep into the right-field seats for a 3-0 lead.

Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson (7) follows through on a single during the fifth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“It didn’t look like a bad pitch to me, but give him credit,” Counsell said.

Asked how he pulled the high pitch for the homer, Pederson shrugged and said, “I guess I’m a pretty good player, I don’t know. I knocked it out of the yard.”

Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) reacts after a base hit during the fifth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Adam Duvall made a crucial baserunning mistake when he tried to advance from first to second as Austin Riley tried to score from third on d’Arnaud’s flyball in the second. Left fielder Christian Yelich nailed Duvall for the third out before Riley crossed the plate, costing Atlanta a run.

The Brewers hit only .183 in the first two games of the series, including a 3-0 loss in Game 2. Counsell made one lineup change, inserting Luis Urías at third base for Eduardo Escobar.

Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) loses the ball after colliding with the fence on a hit by Atlanta Braves’ Adam Duvall during the fourth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Brewers couldn’t score in the fifth after putting runners on second and third with no outs. Urías, hit by a pitch, moved to third on a double by Omar Narváez.

Anderson escaped when Lorenzo Cain’s sharp grounder was stopped by a diving Swanson, who held the baserunners before throwing to first. Urías was caught in a rundown on pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach’s grounder to third base, and Kolten Wong lined out to Freddie Freeman at first base to end the inning.

Atlanta Braves closer Will Smith (51) celebrates with Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud (16) embrace after the ninth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 3-0. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Swanson turned an acrobatic double play to end the eighth after Luke Jackson walked Jace Peterson and gave up a one-out single to Willy Adames.

PEARLS OF WISDOM

Pederson still wore the pearl necklace in his postgame news conference that became part of his uniform late this season. He said the pearls are real and were ordered from his jeweler.

“I think I just saw the pearls and thought that looked cool,” he said, adding the necklace “kind of caught my eye.”

CAIN CRASHES

Brewers CF Cain, running at full speed, crashed into the wire fence as he tried to catch Duvall’s drive in the fourth. Cain held the ball in his glove before hitting the ground and losing control. Cain stayed down as Duvall raced to third with the two-out triple.

Cain remained in the game after a visit from Counsell and a trainer. Peralta struck out Eddie Rosario to end the inning.

“He was fortunate he just jammed his shoulder,” Counsell said. “It’s probably going to be a little sore tomorrow, but I’m optimistic.”

VISITING BOBBY

Snitker said he visited with Hall of Fame former manager Bobby Cox on Sunday. Cox, 80, has made only infrequent visits to Truist Park since suffering a stroke in 2019.

“He’s excited,” Snitker said. “He’s excited and watching all the games.”

Snitker said Cox is “hanging in there” and said his visit “was good. He was all excited and jacked up about everything, that’s for sure.”

E-5 AS A FAN

Braves Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones probably didn’t expect to have a ball come his way when he settled into his box seat near the Atlanta dugout.

Jones should have brought his glove.

The TV cameras caught the action when Jones dropped a pop foul hit by Urías in the second inning.

UP NEXT

Following the game, Snitker and Counsell would not announce starting pitchers for Game 4 on Tuesday at 5:07 p.m. Snitker said “everybody is in play” including Game 1 starter Charlie Morton, who would be pitching on short rest. A possible option for the Brewers is LHP Eric Lauer. Counsell said his Game 1 starter, Corbin Burnes, would not be his choice.

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State Champions: Florida Panthers take out Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, in Sunshine State showdown

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TAMPA, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal 3:40 into the third period and the Florida Panthers won their third straight game by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, on Tuesday night.

Barkov slammed a loose puck in the crease past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his second of the season. It came 1:04 after the Lightning tied it 1-all on Brayden Point’s goal.

“They tied the game up and when we score right away, it feels like we never lost the lead,” Barkov said.

Florida also got goals from defenseman Brandon Montour, Anton Lundell and Anthony Duclair. Sam Reinhart had two assists and rookie goalie Spencer Knight made 30 saves in his first start this season for the Panthers, who are 3-0-0 for the second straight season.

Prior to 2020-21, the Panthers had not started a season with three straight wins since entering the NHL in 1993.

“I think we played pretty well with the lead,” Barkov said. “I know they got their chances, but our (penalty kill), our defense, our goalie played outstanding. That’s why we won.”

Knight, drafted 13th overall by Florida in 2019, has won all five of his regular-season appearances. He was 1-1 against the Lightning in the first round of last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

“He was great. Patient,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “Challenged at the right time, takes away a lot of the net.”

Vasilevskiy made 28 saves in his fourth consecutive start for the Lightning, who were coming off back-to-back overtime wins after a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on opening night.

“We had our chances,” coach Jon Cooper said. “They didn’t go in for us tonight, but we had a lot of good chances. We’ll be all right.”

Montour gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 6:12 of the second, beating Vasilevskiy with a wrist shot from near the right faceoff dot for his first of the season. Point tied it 2:36 into the third when his slap shot from the high slot ticked the stick of Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar and zipped past Knight.

Lundell gave Florida a two-goal lead when he beat Vasilevskiy with 6:41 remaining for his first NHL goal in his third game. Duclair scored for the third straight game when he hit the empty net with 2:06 left.

The Lightning played without forward Nikita Kucherov, who sustained a lower-body injury during Tampa Bay’s 2-1 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Cooper said Tuesday he expects Kucherov to return before the end of the season.

Kucherov missed the 2020-21 regular season following hip surgery but returned to lead the Lightning with 32 points in 23 games to help them repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

His absence was especially notable on the power play, as the Lightning went 0 for 6 and failed to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:34 in the first period.

“We’re missing one of the best half-wall guys in the league,” Point said. “We have to simplify things and get pucks to the net.”

SLOW STARTS

The Lightning have allowed the first goal in all four of their games. They have yet to score a first-period goal and have not led at any point during regulation.

FAST STARTS

Knight is the 11th goalie in NHL history to win his first five regular-season decisions. Bob Froese of the 1982-83 Philadelphia Flyers and Martin Jones of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings share the record with eight in a row.

POWER OUTAGE

Florida was 0 for 3 on the power play and is 0 for 10 in its three wins.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

Lightning: Have three days off before hosting Colorado on Saturday night.

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Battle of the Sunshine State: Florida Panthers head on the road for first round of state championship against Tampa Bay Lightning

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Florida Panthers (2-0-0, first in the Atlantic) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, fifth in the Atlantic)

Tampa, Florida; Tuesday, 7 p.m. EDT

LINE: Lightning -139, Panthers +115

BOTTOM LINE: The Tampa Bay Lightning host Florida after Sam Bennett scored three goals in the Panthers’ 5-1 victory over the Islanders.

Tampa Bay finished 36-17-3 overall during the 2020-21 season while going 21-7-0 at home. The Lightning averaged 4.2 penalties and 10.7 penalty minutes per game.

Florida finished 37-14-5 overall and 17-9-2 on the road a season ago. The Panthers recorded 311 assists on 188 total goals last season.

The matchup Tuesday is the first meeting of the season between the two teams.

INJURIES:

Lightning: Zach Bogosian: out (lower-body), Nikita Kucherov: day to day (undisclosed).

Panthers: None listed.

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NHL hands San Jose Sharks’ Evander Kane 21-game suspension for submitting fake COVID-19 vaccine card

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Another week, another Evander Kane update.

On Monday, the NHL announced that Kane has been suspended for 21 games “for an established violation of, and lack of compliance with, the NHL/NHLPA COVID-19 Protocol.”

Kane will not receive any pay while suspended.

On Oct. 6, a report from Front Office Sports revealed that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card to the league and the San Jose Sharks, which is an illegal offense in both Canada and the United States.

Read more from Yahoo Sports.

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