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Report: Robin Ventura and Kevin Long are early favorites for Mets’ managerial position

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Mets’ manager Terry Collins hasn’t been ousted from his position just yet, but there’s plenty of reason to think the club will be courting other candidates when his contract expires this offseason. Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the search for a replacement is expected to last into November, with former White Sox’ skipper Robin Ventura and current hitting coach Kevin Long as early favorites for the role.

Ventura, 50, hasn’t seen the inside of the Mets’ home dugout since he last suited up for them in 2001. He managed the White Sox for five straight seasons from 2012 to 2016, guiding them to a second-place finish with a 85-77 record in 2012 before watching the team stumble to four consecutive losing records. Despite his lack of success with Chicago, the Mets reportedly want someone with ties to the organization, and Ventura’s career .260/.360/.468 line with the Mets happens to meet that criteria.

Kevin Long never made it to the big leagues with the Mets — or any other club, for that matter. His professional playing career came to its natural end after an eight-year run in the Royals’ system, and he transitioned to a full-time role in coaching and managing in 1997. Well before he joined the Mets’ coaching staff in 2014, Long spent two seasons managing the Royals’ High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks and Short-Season Single-A Spokane Indians, leading the latter to their 15th Northwest League championship in 1999.

It’s still unclear who will gain an edge in the process, especially as the Mets haven’t officially severed ties with Collins. Former Mets’ infielder Alex Cora is also rumored to be in the running for the position, as well as former third base coach Chip Hale, bench coach Bob Geren and Rays’ third base coach Charlie Montoyo. Ventura and Long are the only named candidates with managerial experience so far.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.