Dodgers score twice in third, fourth innings to take 4-1 lead over Cardinals in NLDS Game 1

15 Comments

Update: Make that 6-1, as A.J. Ellis ended Wainwright’s start after crushing a two-run home run to left field with one out in the fifth inning. As of this writing, Ellis is 3-for-3.

The narrative will be that the benches-clearing incident to lead off the bottom of the third inning rattled Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. The reality is that Wainwright just isn’t all that sharp. The right-hander has allowed multiple hits in each of his first four innings, and the Dodgers were able to capitalize on it for two runs in each of the third and fourth innings.

After hitting Puig and the benches emptied in the third, Wainwright initially bounced back and got two quick outs. But Hanley Ramirez ripped a two-out single to right field, scoring Puig from second base. Ramirez then stole second and scored when Carl Crawford laced a ground-rule double to right. Crawford scampered to third base on a wild pitch but was stranded when Juan Uribe loudly flied out to center field to end the third inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, A.J. Ellis lined a single to center field. Clayton Kershaw bunted Ellis to second, and Dee Gordon pushed Ellis to third with a weak ground out to first baseman Matt Adams. Again, the Dodgers mounted a two-out rally. Puig singled to left field to make it 3-1. After Adrian Gonzalez drew a walk, moving Puig to second base, Matt Kemp lifted a single to left field to push across the Dodgers’ second fourth-inning run and their fourth run of the game. Ramirez lined out to end the threat. Overall, Wainwright has allowed nine hits and a walk while striking out four in four innings.

Spotting Kershaw a one-run lead is bad enough, but now it’s up to three runs. Since giving up a one-out solo home run to Randal Grichuk in the first inning, the left-hander has retired 14 consecutive batters. He struck out five consecutively, striking out the side in the fourth, then fanning Yadier Molina and Matt Adams in the fifth before Pete Kozma weakly popped up. This is a mountain of a task for the Cardinals.

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

10 Comments

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.”