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Dusty Baker made the right call taking out Max Scherzer

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For a long time, manager Dusty Baker was known for leaving his starters in games too long. Many blamed him for the downfalls of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior back when he managed the Cubs. On Monday, he will be criticized for not leaving his starter in long enough.

Max Scherzer started Game 3 of the NLDS for the Nationals against the Cubs on Monday. He suffered a minor hamstring injury in his last start of the regular season, which delayed his first appearance in the postseason by a few days. As a result, the Nationals are unlikely — I would argue unable — to start him twice in NLDS.

Scherzer, though, had his stuff working. He no-hit the Cubs through the first six innings, issuing three walks while striking out six batters on 98 pitches. In the seventh, however, Scherzer’s no-hit bid went up in smoke as Ben Zobrist laced a one-out double to left-center field.

Baker came out to the mound. As has been done many times before, Scherzer pleaded his case to stay in the game, despite being at 98 pitches, close to his previously-stated goal. Sammy Solis, a reliever who finds success in particular when he faces left-handed hitters, was warming up in the bullpen. The left-handed-hitting Kyle Schwarber, who struggles against lefties and was eager to make up for an earlier defensive miscue, was coming up to the plate. Baker opted to take out Scherzer in favor of Solis.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon countered by bringing Albert Almora, Jr. in to pinch-hit for Schwarber. Almora had an .898 OPS against lefties during the regular season. Almora sent a 3-2, 84 MPH change-up from Solis into left-field to bring home Zobrist, tying the game up at one apiece. The Cubs would go on to score again in the eighth to take a 2-1 lead and Wade Davis closed out the game, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the NLDS.

Baker made the right call, even though the results didn’t bear that out. Scherzer was coming off an injury and was at 98 pitches. Furthermore, he was going through the Cubs’ lineup a third time, handled lefties worse than Solis (the left-handed-hitting Jason Heyward was also due up after Schwarber/Almora), and his departure forced the Cubs to sub out Schwarber. All good things. Baker, unfortunately, was punished and he’ll find out — as if he didn’t already know — that managers will be second-guessed no matter what they do.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.