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Did Dave Martinez leave Max Scherzer in too long?


Max Scherzer heroically started Game 7 of the World Series for the Nationals against the Astros. 48 hours ago, he couldn’t lift his arm and needed his wife to help him get dressed, causing him to be scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start due to neck spasms. Cortisone shots are pretty good, it turns out.

As valiant as Scherzer’s effort was, though, he was clearly operating at a significantly lower level of effectiveness than usual, and manager Dave Martinez still let him slog through 103 pitches over five innings. We’re well aware that the Nationals’ actual bullpen has been less than stellar this year, but they have repurposed starters Aníbal Sánchez and Patrick Corbin at the ready in the absolute final game of the season. Zack Greinke is pitching so well for the Astros that it might not matter, but Martinez may have left Scherzer in one inning too long.

Scherzer worked around a two-out walk in the first inning. While he was missing his location at times, his velocity was there, which was a good sign. Yuli Gurriel greeted him rudely in the second inning, leading off with a line drive solo homer to left field to make it 1-0. Scherzer got into more trouble, allowing back-to-back singles, but the Astros helped him out by popping up a bunt and making two quick subsequent outs to strand both runners.

Scherzer put two more runners on base in the third inning on a leadoff single and a one-out walk, but escaped unscathed. The fourth inning saw two additional base runners reach, both with two outs, and again Scherzer danced out of trouble. It caught up with him in the fifth, with his velocity waning. Michael Brantley led off with a single and moved to second base as Gurriel grounded out for the second out of the inning. Scherzer walked Yordan Álvarez, then Carlos Correa followed up by sneaking a grounder down the third base line that was deflected into foul territory by Anthony Rendon, allowing a run to score to push the lead to 2-0. Scherzer struck out Robinson Chirinos to end the threat.

Corbin took over for Scherzer to start the bottom of the sixth. Scherzer’s final line: two runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts across five innings. He was lucky to only allow the two runs as the Astros went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine total runners. Martinez has managed his pitching staff well in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but with the way Greinke is pitching, the extra run Scherzer surrendered in the fifth inning could prove crucial.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3


HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”