UPDATE: Mets complete first round of interviews for manager

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UPDATE: The Wally Backman campaign is still alive and kicking, for some reason. According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Backman has made it through to the second round of interviews for the Mets’ manager job.

The rest of the field played out as expected, as Terry Collins, Bob Melvin and Chip Hale are the other finalists, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today that he hopes to name a manager by Thanksgiving.

Hey, at least Craig can still have some more fun with this whole process.

7:21 PM: It’s done. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson confirmed to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com just a short while ago that he has completed the first round of interviews for the team’s managerial vacancy.

“The first round is officially closed,” Alderson said. “We hope to bring back several candidates over the balance of this week. If everything goes as we hope, we could have the second round completed by the end of the week. There won’t need to be a Round 3. … I would say right now that it’s very possible we’d have a manager announced by Thanksgiving.”

Alderson did not acknowledge that a front-runner for the job existed, but Rubin expects that Terry Collins, Bob Melvin and Chip Hale will all likely receive second interviews. “Organizational sources” tell Rubin that Collins is the favorite, with Melvin as the most likely alternative.

Right on cue, Ken Davidoff of New York Newsday reports that the Mets have informed Hale that he is a finalist for the job. Hale just completed his first season as third base and infield coach with the club. He would likely stay with the organization if the Mets ultimately settle on Collins or Melvin.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.