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What’s on Tap: Previewing Sunday’s action

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The Mariners are set to clinch a three-game sweep over the Athletics on Sunday, provided they can keep their starter together. Literally. Left-hander James Paxton ripped the middle fingernail of his throwing hand on August 30 and, though the injury isn’t serious enough to land him on the disabled list, it has kept him on a strict pitch limit during the first week of September.

The lefty used a combination of tape and glue to keep his finger intact during a throwing session on Friday and should be in fine form to toss a few innings for Seattle over the weekend, albeit without his cutter. He went 4 ⅓ innings in his last start with Seattle, delivering six runs, a Jonathan Lucroy home run, and eight strikeouts to the Rangers while using a fake fingernail to protect his nailbed. Despite the barrage of runs allowed, the most the 27-year-old had given up since July 15, Paxton joined Matt Young, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Felix Hernandez as one of four Seattle hurlers to strike out four batters in a single inning.

Against Paxton and a 74-68 Mariners’ lineup, the A’s will send out rookie right-hander Raul Alcantara, whose major league career got off to a rocky start last week with five hits, five runs, three HBP, and zero strikeouts in three innings pitched. The series finale is set to commence in Oakland at 4:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Sunday’s action:

Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Andriese) @ New York Yankees (Luis Cessa), 1:05 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 1:07 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander), 1:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Kenta Maeda) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Urena), 1:10 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Ryan Vogelsong), 1:35 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ Atlanta Braves (Williams Perez), 1:35 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan) @ Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez), 1:35 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) @ Minnesota Twins (Jose Berrios), 2:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Ian Kennedy) @ Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale), 2:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Luke Weaver), 2:15 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Los Angeles Angels (Jered Weaver), 3:35 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Matt Moore) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke), 4:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ San Diego Padres (Edwin Jackson), 4:40 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:05 PM EDT

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.