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Ryan Zimmerman’s key at bat helps Nationals to a long-awaited playoff celebration

Would what is now reality have been outlandish before the series began? Back-to-
back no-hitter attempts, late runs, only the top pitchers being used, a 2-0 lead
after consecutive road wins, an 86 percent chance to reach the World Series. That’s
reality. Pre-series, it was improbable. “Oh, my gosh,” Sean Doolittle said. “I
don't even think -- it almost -- it almost -- I don't want to say it was like
unrealistic, but that would have felt like maybe too much to ask even for like a
best-case scenario. You have your two starters take no-hitters past the seventh
inning, and we get some timely hitting and come out of there with both games, I
mean, that is absolutely -- we literally couldn't have scripted it any better.” The
glowing start receives another boost Monday night. Stephen Strasburg will pitch
Game 3 when Washington hosts the NLCS for the first time. The last time Washington
played a game this late in the season? Back in 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt threw
out the first pitch from his seat at Griffith Stadium, replete with crisp hat and
double-breasted coat. Strasburg’s presence further represents the main theme for
the Nationals: Starting pitching was the lone constant through the regular season.
It is the top reason they are here now, and is the undisputed reason why they have
a hearty grip on this series. The process runs counter to baseball’s strategical
tide. It’s perfectly in line with what Mike Rizzo covets -- and spends on -- the
most. Strasburg has a 2.40 postseason ERA. Max Scherzer has a 1.80 ERA. Aníbal
Sánchez has a 0.71 ERA. Patrick Corbin’s ERA was foiled by his NLDS Game 3 relief
appearance. It’s 7.56. Outside of that, his ERA is 1.17. Washington dumped its
money into those four players. More than half-a-billion dollars over the life of
their contracts. Two results occurred: the bullpen went through the season with the
reliability of a $1,000 car; the postseason has become anchored by the starters. Of
the 216 outs recorded by Washington in the postseason, 158 have been recorded by
those four pitchers. That’s 73 percent. Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson
contributed 31 of the remaining 58. It’s not just the Nationals. St. Louis and
Houston are riding the same model. Astros starters Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole
are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively in postseason innings pitched. St. Louis has three
starters -- Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas -- in the top nine.
Washington will be 1-2 if Strasburg can pitch five innings or more Monday night.
Scherzer currently leads everyone with 20 innings pitched. “I think it was just the
guys that are doing it,” Scherzer told reporters earlier in the series. “Next year
it will be the bullpens. Year after that it will be starters. It's just kind of,
there's so many ways to win baseball games through pitching. And we have seen it
over the years, of how teams have deployed pitching staffs in the postseasons.
There's no one way to do it. “And so it's really about what you got that day. I
really kind of see it that way, is whatever your team, whatever your pitching staff
has, whatever the starter has. There's times where starters are going, like in the
NLDS and the ALDS, there's times where guys are pitching on where, like for me I
relieved in Game 2 and going into Game 4 that was the weirdest thing for me to ever
do, to be pitching like that and knowing how to pitch. “So you just kind of got to
throw everything out the window and just realize, just go a hundred percent, give
it whatever you got, and everybody's on the same program.” Corbin is adapting to
this mentality. The worst outing of his career came in his first postseason relief
appearance. He later put together a crucial 1 ⅓ innings appearance in Game 5 of the
NLDS, providing a path to Doolittle and Hudson. Davey Martinez used him as a strict
matchup option in Game 2 of the NLCS when he brought Corbin in to face Kolten Wong
in the ninth inning. He threw two pitches then was replaced after the infielders
gave him flak for the length of his outing, Corbin turning into a $140 million
LOOGY (Left-handed one out guy). “During Game 5, he really got a taste of bullpen
life,” Doolittle said. “He had warmed up, I think, three times before he went into
the game, but then he went in the game, and he was absolutely lights out. His stuff
was electric. “I was joking with him, once we found out he was going to be in the
bullpen for Game 2, that he was an adrenaline junkie, and now he can't get enough
of it.” Corbin is out of the bullpen this week and back to his day job. He will
start Game 4, which could be a chance to send the Nationals to the World Series. If
they make it, their formula will have been simplistic and stunningly effective: pay
the starting pitchers, deploy the starting pitchers, advance. MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Duck Dodgers POP! Figures are from the 24 1/2th Century

Growing up one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was Looney Toons. I had a
special place for Daffy Duck and his alter ego Duck Dodgers. Now we can celebrate
the classic cartoon with a series of POP! vinyl figures. The collection includes
two Duck Dodgers figures, identical except for one in metallic suit. Other
characters from the cartoon include Marvin the Martian with his pushbroom helmet
and ray gun, Porky Pig aka Eager Young Space Cadet, and Commander K-9. Space Cadet
is also available on matte or metallic finish versions. Obviously, you will need
both versions of each character to complete your collection. You can get the full
set of Duck Dodgers POP! Vinyl action figures for $10.99 each starting in August.
They’re available for pre-order now over at Entertainment Earth.

Duck Dodgers

Infogrames, long awaited Duck Dodgers delivers some fine platform action/adventure
gaming despite the fact that it doesn't add much to the genre. We've all hopped
from treacherous platform to treacherous platform, collected those precious super
collectibles before and danced around those impossible boss characters before, but
Duck Dodgers has everything going for it in the presentation department. As we
mentioned in a previous feature, this game defines what our "Presentation" sub-
rating is supposed to be. If you've ever wished Daffy Duck would go left instead of
right, or begged for him to use common sense, this is your chance to make it so.
The Paradigm developed Duck Dodgers takes you into the Looney Tunes universe so
effortlessly that you may want to watch for falling anvils and pianos when you're
done. It's available for rental now, which we can definitely recommend, and it will
be available for purchase later this year, which we can recommend only after you
give it a rent. Features Play as Daffy Duck in his first interactive adventure for
Nintendo 64. Use Porky Pig's¿ hints to help Daffy defeat Marvin The Martian Explore
five huge planets and battle five ruthless bosses in more than 30 levels of fast,
fun gameplay. Utilize gizmos galore including the ACME¿ jetpack, raygun and Instant
Martain¿ Decoys Classic Warner Bros. gags center around the ever-unreliable ACME
products. Familiar Looney scenes -- including Daffy's bill spinning around his head
when shot. Rumble Pak support. Save the game directly to the cartridge with the
battery back-up. StoryAfter positioning several "PU-36 explosive space modulators"
in an unknown region of the solar system, Marvin the Martian is poised once again
to destroy the universe. As Daffy Duck's futuristic alter ego, Duck Dodgers,
players must work together with Porky Pig to uncover the powerful devices planted
by the doomsday alien and thwart Marvin's dastardly plan. GameplayAs we said,
you'll hop from teetering platform to teetering platform, kick a few enemies, jump-
stomp some boxes open and figure out a few puzzles every so often, so there's not
much new to veteran platform gamers here. The fresh highlights will come from the
mini-games, boss battles and side quests that allow the Looney Tunes universe to
breathe and come to life. Hassan, (known for his fondness of chopping things with
his single-edged sword) has always been a favorite cartoon character of ours, so
the chance to fight him was like a dream come true. It's not a dream that we'd had
very often, mind you , but a dream nonetheless. Likewise taking on The Crusher the
boxer/wrestler that's known for taking lumps from Bugs Bunny is another great
character from the good old days of cartooning that we were happy to come across.
The thing is, when you meet Hassan or any of the other boss characters for example,
they're very well done and completely in character, but you defeat them the same
way you would any boss from Donkey Kong 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. The level of
difficulty is only there at all because of the game's poor control. It's actually a
deadly combination of the game's control and the loose camera system. These two
crucial elements of 3D platform games seem to disagree with each other throughout
Duck Dodgers. Far too often, we found ourselves falling off of ledges and running
around pickup items as the analog stick and floating camera always seemed to be
pointed in the opposite directions of what the situation calls for. Extremely bad,
loose control was one of the charms of 2D platform games of the past, but it's
absolutely infuriating nowadays. We know however, that the team at Paradigm didn't
just push this game through the development process to get it out to market,
because there are so many other details that they did pay attention to. The
swimming controls were thought out very well and almost make you wish a bigger part
of the game was underwater. Holding R and pushing the analog stick you can make
Duck tiptoe around, complete with accompanying pizzicato violin notes, so you won't
go sprinting off of narrow pathways. But even with great innovations like this, the
control of Duck Dodgers is far too loose for our tastes. It's hard to get a feel
for the physics of the game's world even when you're deep into the game.
GraphicsThe game looks a little blurry at times, especially some of the character
faces, but for the most part, we're pleased with what this game does with the N64's
graphics capabilities. You spend most of your time looking at the back of Daffy's
head anyway, so it's important that the rest of the environment looks good. Also
the animations are very cartoonish in nature, just the way you want them to be.
Daffy runs and walks like he did on television back in the day. In fact, all of the
great Looney Tunes characters, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, the Abominable Snowman,
they all move and act like they're Saturday morning counterparts. The in-game
cinemas are a very nice treat as they advance the story and give you even more
lunacy while clearing hurdles in the game. If you strung all of those cut scenes
together, you might even end up with a decent cartoon fresh for the year 2000. Who
cares if it wouldn't make any sense? SoundThe audio elements combine with the great
animation and cinemas to deliver that great Looney Tunes feels we're so in love
with. Daffy runs his mouth throughout the entire game. His comments are nice and
varied too. It's a good thing, because nobody else in the game says as much as he
does, that is, if they say anything at all. "a-HA!" and "mother," are just examples
of the tiny little quips made famous by Mel Blanc (he's been in the big Acme
factory in the sky for some time now) that define Looney Tunes. Nearly every Daffy
Duck utterance is included in Duck Dodgers. And we're talking about ones that
weren't even part of the Duck Dodgers cartoons too. "Yoikes and away!" was a
catchphrase we remember from the Robin Hood cartoon and.... We're sorry, but we
just get all fired up when we get a chance to use our knowledge of such trivial
things. The music is also a dead-on match of all those Looney Tunes favorites. In
the old days, the music of the cartoons told the story as much as the zany
characters. Our hats are off to Paradigm and Infogrames for re-creating the most
obscure background music loops for the sake of accuracy in Duck Dodgers.