Yu Darvish brings no-hitter into the seventh, but loses anyway

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Rangers starter Yu Darvish brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning for the third time this season, but things quickly started to unravel after the right-hander began the inning with a 2-0 lead. Darvish walked Brian Dozier, then fell behind Chris Herrmann 2-0. He then threw a 91 MPH cutter over the plate, which Herrmann drilled into the stands in right field for a game-tying two-run home run. Then, after going ahead 2-1 in the count, Justin Morneau crushed a solo home run into the upper deck to break the tie. After getting two outs, Darvish surrendered a double to Trevor Plouffe, prompting manager Ron Washington to walk to the mound to call on reliever Neal Cotts.

Overall, in six and two-thirds innings, Darvish allowed the three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out 11. The outing caused his ERA to jump up five points to 2.73. It marks his 11th double-digit strikeout performance in 26 starts and he now has a total of 236 on the season. He has five starts remaining in the season, meaning he would have to average about 13 strikeouts per start to become the first 300-strikeout pitcher since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2002.

Once the Twins took the lead, they relied on relievers Brian Duensing, Josh Roenicke, Jared Burton, and Glen Perkins to hold the Ranger offense silent for the 3-2 victory. With the Athletics in progress against the Rays, the Rangers’ lead in the AL West temporarily drops to 2.5 games.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”