Gerrit Cole shines in postseason debut as Pirates win Game 2

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Partly because they were worried about his innings count, the Pirates seriously considered putting Gerrit Cole into the bullpen for the postseason. It’s a very good thing they didn’t.

Cole pitched six innings of one-run ball and singled in the first run of the game as the Pirates beat the Cardinals 7-1 to even up the NLDS at one game apiece on Friday.

It was pretty much a stress free outing for the 2011 first overall pick in his first postseason appearance. The only run came on a Yadier Molina solo homer when the Pirates were already up 5-0. He threw just 86 pitches before the Pirates decide to turn things over to the pen.

Cole’s hit came in the second with Pedro Alvarez on second base. Shortstop Jordy Mercer was intentionally walked to bring up the pitcher’s spot, but Cole, who was 7-for-34 with five RBI in the regular season, responded with a single up the middle.

The stellar performance will force a tough decision on manager Clint Hurdle if the NLDS goes five games. With two off days coming up, Cole can come back in Game 5 on normal rest. Of course, that was supposed to be A.J. Burnett’s assignment, but Burnett was torched for seven runs in two-plus innings in the Game 1 loss. Cole seems like the better bet of the two with the way he threw today.

Of course, the series still has to go five games first. The Cardinals will throw Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha in Pittsburgh on Sunday and Monday. The Pirates will use wild-card winner Francisco Liriano in Game 3 and sinkerballer Charlie Morton the next day.

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.”