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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.

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.