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Jose Lobaton helps power Nationals past Dodgers 5-2 in NLDS Game 2

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Catcher Jose Lobaton and second baseman Daniel Murphy were the offensive heroes of NLDS Game 2 against the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon as the Nationals won 5-2. Lobaton blasted a three-run homer while Murphy helped out with pair of RBI singles, accounting for all five runs.

The Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead after three innings as Corey Seager smacked a solo homer in the first inning and Justin Turner drove in the second run with a single in the third. But in the bottom of the fourth, Lobaton turned the game on its head with a well-struck three-run home run to left field off of Rich Hill. Murphy added his RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.

Hill is not prone to yielding home runs as opposing batters hit only four of them during the 2016 regular season — two with the A’s over 14 starts and two with the Dodgers over six starts. Lobaton had only three homers and a .374 slugging percentage over 114 plate appearances. It seems the stars truly aligned for that one.

Neither starter finished the fifth inning. Hill went 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts on 82 pitches. Tanner Roark also went 4 1/3, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks with a lone strikeout on 85 pitches.

Mark Rzepczynski, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, and Oliver Perez combined for 3 2/3 hitless innings of relief for the Nats. Mark Melancon came on in the ninth, getting Seager to ground out for the first out of the final frame. Turner singled, but Melancon recovered by striking out Adrian Gonzalez and getting Josh Reddick out on a 4-3 grounder.

The Dodgers had their opportunities. They had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning, but came up empty twice. They loaded the bases again in the third, but Yasmani Grandal grounded into an inning-ending double play. Again, the Dodgers had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth but Grandal struck out and Howie Kendrick lined out.

With the NLDS now tied at one game apiece, the series will head back to Los Angeles. Monday’s Game 3 will begin at 4:00 PM EDT featuring the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez squaring off against the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda.

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.