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Cody Bellinger leads Dodgers into NLCS with 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks

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Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger had a terrific ballgame both offensively and defensively, contributing to his club’s 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks in Game 3 of the NLDS at Chase Field on Monday night. After sweeping the D-Backs in the NLDS, the Dodgers return to the NLCS. They dropped the NLCS in six games to the Cubs last year and are certainly looking to improve on that.

D-Backs starter Zack Greinke didn’t have his best stuff and that was apparent right out of the gate. He gave up a leadoff double to Chris Taylor in the first inning, then walked Corey Seager. After Justin Turner lined out to center field, moving Taylor to third base, Bellinger brought Taylor home with a ground out. The Dodgers would continue threaten over the next three innings but Greinke was able to navigate his way out of danger.

In the fifth, Bellinger added to the Dodgers’ lead, ripping a 3-1 Greinke change-up to left-center field for a solo home run. In the bottom half, Bellinger secured the final out of the inning when Jeff Mathis popped out in foul territory. Bellinger tipped over the railing in front of the visitors’ dugout and managed to hold onto the ball.

The D-Backs answered in the bottom of the fifth as Daniel Descalso smacked a solo home run to right field off of Yu Darvish. The Dodgers, though, got the run right back in the sixth on a leadoff Austin Barnes homer to left field off of Greinke.

Darvish came out for the bottom of the sixth but it was clear his command was starting to elude him. He just barely missed hitting pinch-hitter Christian Walker, then hit him on the bill of the helmet with his eighth pitch of the at-bat. Thankfully, Walker was in good enough shape to take his place at first base, but that was it for Darvish. Tony Cingrani came in and induced a 3-6-3 double play on a terrific play by Bellinger. Brandon Morrow came in and got the final out of the sixth on another fine defensive play by Bellinger, this time making a diving effort for a 3-1 putout.

Morrow worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning before giving way to… Kenta Maeda in the eighth. Yep, Kenta Maeda. Not that seeing a starter used in a relief role is exactly strange anymore. Anyway, Maeda worked a 1-2-3 frame of his own with a pair of strikeouts. Kenley Jansen got the ninth, as expected. He fanned pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco, then gave up a single to David Peralta to give the D-Backs the opportunity to bring the tying run to the plate. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Ketel Marte grounded back to Jansen and Paul Goldschmidt struck out on a 3-2 count to end the game, sending Dodgers pouring onto the field to celebrate advancing in the playoffs.

The Dodgers will have a few days off, awaiting the winner of the Cubs/Nationals side of the NLDS. The Cubs lead that series 2-1. The NLCS will begin on Saturday.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.