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The Dodgers hand their rivals another bad loss as the Giants’ skid continues

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“Bad loss” is relative. This was only 2-1. But it was bad in the sense that the same problem which has dogged the San Francisco Giants during their second half swoon — the back end of their bullpen — continued last night at Dodger Stadium. Oh, and they lost their composure as well.

This started as a matchup of aces, as Madison Bumgarner one-hit the Dodgers for seven innings while Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers’ pen allowed only on unearned run all game long. After Wil Smith and Derek Law kept L.A. scoreless in the eighth, the Giants’ new closing concept came into play. No one man is taking over for demoted closer Santiago Casilla but, rather, a hot hand/committee concept is. On first test, it didn’t go well.

Bruce Bochy decided that Law would continue to pitch to start off the ninth and he issued a leadoff walk to Andrew Toles. Law was pulled and Javier Lopez came in and immediately gave up a single to Corey Seager. Then he was pulled for Hunter Strickland who immediately gave up an RBI single to Justin Turner and then a walkoff RBI double to Adrian Gonzalez, completing another late game collapse in what has been an entire half season of collapses for them.

And it was a collapse that featured a bit of chippiness too. Benches cleared at the end of the seventh inning as Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig exchanged words. It appeared to have been kicked off my Bumgarner saying something to Puig after he retired him on a comebacker. Bumgarner was, shall we say, exuberant, likely because Puig doubled off of him earlier and, possibly, because the two of them have had many run-ins in the past. Last night Bumgarner seemed to shout something at Puig as he ran out the grounder and then the two of them stared each other down From the looks of it, it appears to fall under the category of “batters aren’t allowed to flinch lest they be seen to be showing up the pitcher, but pitchers can pound their glove and hoot at anyone they want when they record an out to end an inning.”

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Vin Scully was told after this that Bumgarner was hollering at Puig, “Don’t look at me!” over and over. Which, sure, that’s mature.

From the Dodgers’ perspective I’m sure Bumgarner can hoot all he wants. L.A.’s lead in the NL West is now six and a half games and the Giants freefall continues.

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.”