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MLB: Nationals rap Cubs, level playoff series

Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals after hitting a three run home run against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 7, 2017 in Washington, DC.   (Patrick Smith / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals after hitting a three run home run against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Patrick Smith / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper blasted home runs in the eighth inning to rally the Washington Nationals over the World Series champion Chicago Cubs 6-3 Saturday to level their Major League Baseball playoff series.

Harper belted a two-run homer to equalize for the Nationals at 3-3 and Zimmerman delivered the winning blow by smashing a three-run homer into the left-field stands.

“We’ve been struggling to score some runs. We kind of busted out that inning,’’ Zimmerman said. “The timing was huge.’’

The Nationals and Cubs are 1-1 in the best-of-five National League division series, which shifts to Chicago’s century-old Wrigley Field for games on Monday and Tuesday.

“You don’t want to go down 0-2. Obviously a huge win,’’ Zimmerman said. “Going down 0-2 going into their place would be tough. Needless to say, big win.’’

Washington’s Adam Lind singled in his first playoff appearance to set the stage for Harper’s towering two-run homer to right field off Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards to lift the Nationals level. It was Harper’s first homer in two months.

“I was trying to get a pitch I could drive and I got one. I got pretty lucky,’’ Harper said. “For us to come back and win that ball game like that, pretty incredible.’’

The series winner will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Arizona Diamondbacks for a berth in the World Series.

The Dodgers rallied for an 8-5 home victory over the Diamondbacks to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their series.

Austin Barnes delivered a two-run double as part of a four-run fifth inning for Los Angeles, who were down early after Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt belted a two-run home run off Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill in the first inning.

Logan Forsythe, again getting the start at second base over Chase Utley, had three hits, scored two runs, drove in one and stole a base for the Dodgers.

Yasiel Puig, who drove in two runs in Friday’s win, had three hits and drove in two runs.

After Brandon Drury pulled the Diamondbacks to within two runs with a three-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh, Dodgers closing pitcher Kenley Jansen entered the game with one on and one out in the eighth and retired all five hitters he faced to seal the win.

The Dodgers will try to finish off the series in Arizona on Monday.

The American League playoffs resume Sunday with the Cleveland Indians at the New York Yankees and Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox, each visiting squad needing a victory to complete a series sweep.

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