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Ronald Acuña blasts grand slam as Braves go up 5-0 early in NLDS Game 3 vs. Dodgers

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Dodgers starter Walker Buehler needed just five pitches to get through the bottom of the first inning of NLDS Game 3 against the Braves on Sunday night. He needed many more to see his way through the second.

Buehler walked Nick Markakis on four pitches to open the bottom of the second, a harbinger of things to come. Buehler managed to strike out Johan Camargo and Kurt Suzuki consecutively, but then Ozzie Albies singled to center field. Cody Bellinger misplayed it, allowing Markakis to advance to third base and Albies to second. Manager Dave Roberts opted to intentionally walk No. 8 hitter Charlie Culberson to load the bases with opposing starter Sean Newcomb coming to the plate. Buehler completely lost the ability to hit the strike zone as he walked Newcomb on four pitches, forcing in a run.

Acuña stepped to the plate and Buehler still could not throw strikes. He fell behind 3-0, then threw what was objectively ball four, a fastball six inches above the strike zone. Home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called it a strike, however, which seemed to be a gift to Buehler. On the next pitch, Buehler threw a 98 MPH fastball down the middle, which Acuña lifted 414 feet for a grand slam, putting the Braves up 5-0.

Acuña, 20, is now the youngest player in baseball history to hit a grand slam in the postseason. The record was previously held by Mickey Mantle, who was 21 when he hit a grand slam in the 1953 World Series.

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.