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Brewers take 2-1 lead in NLCS after shutting Dodgers out 4-0 in Game 3

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Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacín tossed 5 1/3 highly effective, shutout innings to help lead his team past the Dodgers 4-0 in Game 3 of the NLCS Monday night at Dodger Stadium. The journeyman, who had to settle for minor league contracts in 2015 and ’16, has yet to allow a run in the postseason.

The Brewers’ offense helped take some of the pressure off Chacín, giving him a run of support in the top of the first inning against Walker Buehler. Buehler walked Christian Yelich, who promptly scored when Ryan Braun ripped a double down the left field line. Buehler otherwise pitched quite well as he wouldn’t relent his second run until the sixth inning when he uncorked a wild pitch with two outs.

Manager Craig Counsell opted to take Chacín out of the game with one out in the sixth after Justin Turner reached second base due to a throwing error by third baseman Mike Moustakas. Chacín was double-switched out and Corey Knebel came in, getting the final two outs of the frame to send the game into the seventh. Orlando Arcia provided some insurance in the top half of the seventh, hitting an opposite-field two-run home run off of Buehler to make the score 4-0. Knebel remained in the game in the bottom half of the seventh and simply struck out the side. Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal, and Enrique Hernández each went down swinging.

Joakim Soria started the eighth inning for the Brewers, giving the appearance that they might not call on Josh Hader, who threw three innings and 46 pitches in Game 1. But after Soria got Chris Taylor to pop out, Counsell brought Hader into the game to face the left-handed Joc Pederson and Max Muncy. David Freese pinch-hit for Pederson, then struck out. Hader provided the same fate to Matt Kemp, pinch-hitting for Muncy. Hader needed only eight pitches, which opens the possibility he might be used in Games 4 and/or 5 as well.

In the ninth, Counsell handed the ball to Jeremy Jeffress, fresh off a disastrous performance in Game 2 which saw him give up an eventual game-winning two-run home run to Justin Turner. This time around, Turner settled for a leadoff single. Manny Machado moved him over to third base with a double, and once again Jeffress was in trouble. Jeffress got Cody Bellinger to pop up, but loaded the bases by walking Puig to bring up Grandal, who had become something of a goat after allowing his third passed ball of the NLCS earlier in the game. Grandal struck out on three pitches for the second out, returning to the dugout amid a chorus of boos. The Dodgers’ final hope rested in the hands of Brian Dozier. Jeffress threw a 1-2, 96.5 MPH fastball that caught the outside corner of the plate and Dozier took it for strike three. Jeffress somehow wriggled out of trouble to put the 4-0 victory in the books for the Brewers.

The Brewers will look to extend their NLCS lead on Tuesday as the two squads match up against in Los Angeles for Game 4. Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers. The Brewers haven’t yet announced their starter.

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.