Pirates opt to retain GM Neal Huntington

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The Pirates’ season has derailed, but the engineer will be returning. Pirates president Frank Coonelly released a statement Wednesday saying that GM Neal Huntington would be back in 2013.

Manager Clint Hurdle and assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith are also expected back.

“As soon as we finish this season as well as we possibly can, we will turn our full and total attention to evaluating why were unable to finish the job and what we must do differently to take the next step to becoming a championship team,” Coonelly’s statement read. “There will unquestionably be changes made to the way in which we operate as a result of this thorough critical self-evaluation, but we will not be making personnel changes at the very top of our baseball operations department. Neal, Kyle, Greg and Clint are dedicated and intelligent baseball men in whom I have great confidence.”

If the Pirates’ season had unfolded differently and the team had achieved its current 76-78 record through more typical means, Huntington probably wouldn’t have been on the hot seat in the first place. That several of the most important players on the roster (Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, James McDonald, Starling Marte) have had such encouraging seasons is really the most important thing here. The only real key disappointment is Jose Tabata, and he has played better since returning from the minors. Retaining Huntington is certainly the right move. The Pirates’ probably haven’t been in this good of shape in 20 years.

Red Sox beat Yankees 11-6 to clinch AL East for third consecutive season

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The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.

AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.

With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.