Allen Craig hit his first home run of the season

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Allen Craig hit .307/.354/.522 with 22 homers and 92 RBI in 119 games last season and was expected to do big things from start to finish here in 2013. He had a sluggish April, but the talented Cardinals first baseman is quickly beginning to heat up.

Craig slugged his first home run of the season in the Cardinals’ 7-6 victory over the Brewers Saturday in Milwaukee and is hitting .412/.444/.588 in 18 plate appearances since the calendar flipped to May.

Craig — a .365/.424/.619 career batter with runners in scoring position — boasts 21 RBI in 28 games this year as the Cardinals’ primary cleanup man.

Even through last month’s struggles, he continued to perform well in the clutch.

The 28-year-old scored a five-year, $31 million contract extension from the St. Louis front office this spring. If everything continues to go smoothly, “Wrench” will be wearing the birds on the bat through the 2018 season.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.