Clayton Kershaw, Scott Van Slyke lead Dodgers past Diamondbacks in opener

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Clayton Kershaw tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Scott Van Slyke doubled and homered as the Dodgers topped the Diamondbacks 3-1 in Saturday’s opener in Australia.

The game, delayed slightly at the onset by some early evening rain, opened with Wade Miley striking out Yasiel Puig on three pitches.

The Dodgers struck first in the second, when Van Slyke had what looked to be a two-run homer to left knocked down by the wind. Fortunately, Mark Trumbo, a natural first baseman, never realized it until it was too late, and what should have been a catchable ball dropped for a double, advancing Adrian Gonzalez to third. Gonzalez then scored on an Andre Ethier groundout.

Van Slyke ended up getting his two-run homer two innings later on a fly down the right-field line. That ball wasn’t struck nearly as well as the first, but this time he was aided by the wind.

Miley finished up his outing allowing three runs in five innings. Kershaw was stronger, striking out seven and walking just one after a poor spring that saw him post a 9.20 ERA in four starts.

The Diamondbacks did make things a little easier on Kershaw than they needed to. Twice they used pinch-hitters in the pitcher’s spot against him. Lefty Didi Gregorius got the call in the fifth inning with one on and none out. Fellow lefty Eric Chavez was the choice in the seventh with one on and one out. Both struck out in pretty hideous fashion, as one might expect. Even though they were allowed to take 28 players to Australia, the Diamondbacks couldn’t come up with a legitimate righty pinch-hitter. They actually did have one, in the form of Matt Tuiasosopo, but they placed him on waivers after arriving and he was subsequently claimed by the Blue Jays.

If there was any bad news for the Dodgers, it’s that Puig looked well off in his first four at-bats, striking out three times and grounding out weakly back to the mound. He finally made some good contact off J.J. Putz in the ninth, hitting a ball to deep center that the wind knocked down. It might have been a homer on another day, though it left him 0-for-5 tonight.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will now get about 14 hours off before playing the finale of their two-game series, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trevor Cahill slated to start the day game in Australia.

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.”