The Nationals' managerial candidates

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Buried in Rosenthal’s latest notes column is some dish on who the Nationals may be looking at as their next manager.  Quick: which of these names is not like the others: Chip Hale, Bob Melvin, Jim Riggleman, Bobby Valentine.

The answer, of course, is Valentine, who casual fans in Washington have actually heard of and who may spur some excitement in a fanbase that desperately needs some.

Not that this makes him the best candidate. Indeed, Hale may actually be the most attractive candidate of them all. He is a former PCL manager of the year and won the league championship in 2002.  In fact, he’s won as a manager at every level in the minor leagues.  He also has the benefit of being 14 years younger than Valentine. You can’t simply assume that this makes it easier for him to relate to young guys than would Valentine, nor can you simply  assume that he’d have more energy and all of that, because (a) Valentine is a different kind of guy than your average 60 year-old manager; and (b) well, you know what happens when we assume.  But it does suggest those things, doesn’t it? At least to the point where the Nats should be very, very careful to test those kinds of things before entrusting their very young club to Valentine. 

I feel more comfortable dismissing Riggleman and Melvin.  Neither of them bring anything to the table that your average veteran, retread manager does not.  Nice guys, I’m sure, but the Nats need something more than that.  They need life and breath and excitement, and neither Riggleman nor Melvin have ever shown the ability to supply that.  Valentine — because of his history, his time in Japan, and the fact that he’s just kind of a neat guy — and Hale — because he fits the profile of a young, accomplished manager ready to finally take over the reins of Major League team — each seem better positioned to do so. 

Upshot: I don’t know enough about the merits of either Valentine or Hale to definitively say that one is superior to the other, but of the names mentioned thus far, they’d be my front runners.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.