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Brewers take a 3-1 lead over Cubs in eighth

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There was nothing doing in between Anthony Rizzo‘s fifth inning home run and the top of the eight, but Milwaukee has broken through in the top of the eighth.

The inning began with Justin Wilson on the hill for the Cubs, who surrendered a single to Orlando Arcia. Domingo Santana then doubled Arcia to third to put two men in scoring position with no one out. Joe Maddon had seen enough of Wilson at that point so he went to the pen and brought in Steve Cishek to face Lorenzo Cain.

Welp, that didn’t work. Cain singled to center, scoring Arcia and moving Santana to third, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead.

That caused Maddon to go to the pen once again and brought up Christian Yelich, who was 3-for-3 on the day, with runners on the corners and no one out. A home run in that situation would’ve not only broken the game wide open but would’ve put Yelich in a tie for the league lead in homers and in the outright lead for RBI. He already leads in batting, so with one swing he could not only win the division for Milwaukee, but he could win the Triple Crown.

Nah, didn’t happen. New Cubs reliever Randy Rosario bore down and struck Yelich out.

Brandon Kintzler came on to face Ryan Braun and Braun, with the count 2-2, served one into right center to score Santana and send Cain to third base:

Kintzelr stayed on to face Jesus Aguilar, again with runners on the corners. Braun attempted to steal second but he guessed poorly, Kintzler pitched out and Willson Contreras had no problem throwing Braun out at second. A good play by Javier Baez too, fielding the throw, making the tag, all while looking Cain back over to third base to head off a delayed double steal. Baez is something special, folks. After the throwout, Aguilar flied out to left for out number three.

Nonetheless, the Brewers have a 3-1 lead. The Cubs are down to their final six outs. It’s tight, but the Brewers are close to breaking through to the NL Central title.

Dusty Baker hired to manage the Astros

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Note: This was first posted yesterday morning. Now that it has been confirmed by multiple outlets, we are updating it.

The Astros and Dusty Baker have an agreement to make Baker the new manager of the Houston Astros. Baker’s hiring was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today yesterday. Today his hiring was confirmed by Marl Feinsand of MLB.com, citing multiple sources.

Baker recently interviewed with Astros owner Jim Crane who, as you know, was in the position of having to find a new manager on the quick given the suspension and subsequent firing of A.J. Hinch in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Crane also interviewed Brad Ausmus in recent days.

In Baker the Astros are getting a manager who needs no training and needs no introduction. He has won basically everywhere he has managed, taking the Giants to the World Series in three postseason appearances, taking the Cubs to the postseason once, taking the Reds to the postseason three times and taking the Nationals to the postseason in both years at the helm. In 22 years as a skipper he has a record of 1,863-1,636. His worst single-team winning percentage is .497 with the Cubs. He was a .593 manager in Washington, a .540 manager in San Francisco, and a .524 manager in Cincinnati.

Baker has a track record of taking over poor-to-decent clubs and, almost immediately, making them winners. He did it in Washington, he did it in Cincinnati, he did it in San Francisco and, though it was only in his first season before running into some bad years, he even did it in Chicago. No one has the market cornered on assessing manager skill and quality, but the fact that Baker has won everywhere he’s gone probably means that, if they do eventually figure out what the special sauce is, Baker will be found to have possessed a vat of it.

He certainly has an interesting challenge in Houston. Unlike his past gigs, he’s taking over a monster of a team, winners of 107 games and the AL pennant last year and, of course, winning the 2017 World Series. With the exception of Gerrit Cole, who departed via free agency, basically all of the players who took the Nationals to Game 7 of the 2019 World Series will be back in 2020.

Which makes figuring out the expectations we should have for Baker an interesting thing. On the one hand, when a team loses Game 7 of the World Series like the Astros did, all but one outcome is a step back. Given that winning a World Series is no guarantee, ever, there’s a chance that even if Baker does an amazing job in Houston he ends his tenure being cast, again, as some sort of disappointment. A guy who couldn’t get it done in the postseason.

On the other hand the Astros have just been busted in a massive cheating scandal and — if you believe they were still cheating in 2019, which some do believe — they will have lost an advantage they once had. Between that, the departure of Cole and the overall fallout of the sign-stealing scandal and the scrutiny under which the team will be in 2020, it would not be at all shocking if they take a step back regardless of who was hired to manage. Which means that if Baker does win it all with Houston, man, it’d be a hell of an accomplishment. Or he could fall short of a World Series win and still be considered a massive success by virtue of keeping a team with every reason to be distracted to stay focused and play good baseball.

No matter how this plays out on the field, however, the fact of the matter is that, in addition to winning everyplace he’s ever been, Baker has long been praised for his management of the clubhouse. For motivating players and keeping them on an even keel. For bringing calm to places where one might expect storms. Win or lose, that’s exactly what this team needs right now. It’s exactly why, in our view, Baker is the perfect hire for the Houston Astros.