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Astros knock four homers to take a 1-0 lead over Cleveland in the ALDS

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It began as a classic pitchers duel but, as so often happens in Minute Maid Park, especially in the postseason, the longball ended up being the story of the game. The Astros rode four dingers — from Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado — to beat Cleveland 7-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS.

Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber started off as expected, holding opposing batters hitless through three, with Verlander continuing to no-hit Cleveland into the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth Alex Bregman broke up the no-no with a solo homer on a 2-1 sinker to make it 1-0 Houston. Later in that inning Josh Reddick singled in Yuli Gurriel to make it 2-0.

Houston added two more in the fifth via a George Springer leadoff homer which made it 3-0. Two pitches later Jose Altuve jacked a sinker to the same part of the ballpark to make it 4-0.

The Indians clawed back in the top of the sixth. Yan Gomes led things off with a single — the first Indians hit of the game — and then, after a Jason Kipnis strikeout, Francisco Lindor singled him to second. A Michael Brantley walk loaded the bases and that was all A.J. Hinch needed to see from Justin Verlander, who was lifted for Ryan Pressly.  Pressly’s first pitch to Jose Ramirez was a curve in the dirt which allowed Gomes to score from third and the other runners to move up 90 feet. Despite first base now being open, Terry Francona allowed Pressly to pitch to Ramirez. He grounded out to first and Lindor scored to make it 4-2. That’s all they’d get in the inning.

Houston would go down in order in their half of the sixth and Cleveland would follow suit in the seventh. Martin Maldonado led off the bottom half of the seventh saw a fastball up in his eyes and sent it out to left field to make it 5-2 Champs. They weren’t done, though, as George Springer reached and then, after Francona brought Trevor Bauer into the game, Springer reached second on a groundout and then came around to score on an Alex Bregman single to left center. It looked as though there may have been a play at the plate on Springer at home, but Bauer cut it off and the run scored. 6-2 Houston.

Cleveland once again went quietly in the eighth while Houston added even more insurance via a Tyler White double. He was lifted for pinch runner Myles Straw, who was promptly singled in by Josh Reddick to make it 7-2. Cleveland failed to score in the ninth and that was the ballgame.

When last we saw the Astros in the postseason they were riding longballs which leapt out of Minute Maid Park. They have begun this postseason in much the same way.

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.