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Acta fired by Cleveland

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Acta fired by Cleveland

By TOM WITHERS CLEVELAND (AP) -- One month, one miserable month wiped out almost everything Manny Acta did for three years. "That month just crushed our hopes," Acta said. And cost him his second job as a major league manager. Acta was fired Thursday by the Cleveland Indians, who collapsed from contention with a 5-24 record in August, the worst month in the franchise's 112-year history. Acta, hired in 2009 after two tough seasons in Washington, paid the steepest price for the Indians' stunning slide that dropped them to last place in the AL Central. It certainly wasn't all Acta's fault, but he took the fall. During the club's August meltdown, Acta tried everything he could to turn things around. He changed his starting lineup, called team meetings, altered routines -- all to no avail. Once the Indians began to slip in the standings, there was nothing the 43-year-old Acta could do to stop them. And with six games left in this disappointing season, the Indians, who are just 21-50 in the second half, decided to begin moving forward without Acta. "I had a great three years here," he said on a conference call. "I have no regrets and no bitterness. I gave my best and that's all I can do." Acta went 214-266 in nearly three seasons with the Indians, who were within 3 1-2 games of first on July 26 following a shocking comeback win at home over Detroit ace Justin Verlander. However, they lost the following day and would eventually lose 11 straight games. A season that began with so much hope turned to despair. "My job was to make us better," Acta said. "We didn't get better." General manager Chris Antonetti announced Acta's firing on an off day before the Indians opened their final homestand against Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox. If there is any solace to Acta it's that his final two games were road wins over the second-place White Sox, who are chasing Detroit for the division title. Acta felt he never lost his clubhouse and praised his players for continuing to play hard when the season unraveled. Bench coach Sandy Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher for the Indians and fan favorite, will replace Acta on an interim basis for the last six games of 2012. Antonetti called Alomar a "primary candidate" to possibly replace Acta as Cleveland's next manager but wouldn't label him the front-runner. The 46-year-old Alomar has been considered for previous openings in Toronto, Boston and with the Chicago Cubs. He would seem to fit perfectly with what the Indians are looking for. "Sandy brings a lot to the table," Antonetti said. "He's obviously been a managerial candidate in other places and I'm confident he will be a primary candidate. Where he will fit among the alternatives, I don't think it's fair for me to speculate at this point." Antonetti would not comment on the possibility former Red Sox manager Terry Francona is on the club's list of candidates. Acta hired Alomar and feels he will be a solid major league manager. "I know Sandy is a very good baseball man," Acta said. "He was very helpful to me over the last three years." Acta laughed when he asked if Alomar should replace him. "If I'm not good enough to be the manager," he said with a chuckle, "don't ask me to be the general manager." Some key decisions by Antonetti that backfired contributed to the Indians' struggles this season, and the GM didn't duck his share of responsibility in Cleveland's collapse. "Manny's not the only one to blame," Antonetti said. "We need to really look hard organizationally at how we can get better, especially at the major league level because our performance was not what we expected and not what we hoped. We have higher expectations and we need to do a better job of identifying some of those solutions." Antonetti said following recent discussions with team president Mark Shapiro and owner Paul Dolan, the decision to dismiss Acta was made Wednesday night. Acta met Antonetti at Progressive Field at 1 p.m. on Thursday. With upcoming player and coaches meetings, Antonetti felt it was unfair to keep Acta around as the team planned ahead. "Those meetings will be forward looking," Antonetti said. "We thought it best, and out of respect for Manny, to allow him to move on." Acta was caught off guard by the news. "I was surprised," he said. "I wasn't expecting it, but when you play the way we played, anything can happen." It didn't help Acta's cause that the Indians had several players underperform while others couldn't stay healthy this season. Former All-Star center fielder Grady Sizemore, who was signed to a one-year, 5 million free-agent contract in November despite missing most of the past three seasons with injuries, never got healthy enough to play. Designated hitter Travis Hafner missed several months with a bad back. And, Antonetti's major acquisition in 2011 of ace Ubaldo Jimenez failed to pay off as the right-hander went 9-17 with a 5.55 ERA. Also, despite the obvious need for a right-handed hitting outfielder, the Indians never signed one and Antonetti was unable to find any external help at the trading deadline. As the losses in August and September mounted. Antonetti realized change was needed. "We always remained hopeful that our play would improve and we would turn things around in the second half," he said. "Unfortunately as the days dwindled, it didn't happen." Acta refused to use an insufficient roster as an excuse for losing. "I'm not going to sit here and point fingers or second guess myself," he said. "I didn't go to the ballpark and wing it. It's a little disappointing when you can't win as often as you want. But that's the game, I guess." Acta believes he has grown following stints with the Nationals and Indians. He's confident another team will give him a chance. "I want to manage again, but right now I want to go home to Florida and be a father, a husband, a son and a brother," he said. "I'll keep my head up and move forward."

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Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The tag was clearly fake. What happened next was all too real for the NL East champion Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper got hurt and needs X-rays.

Harper injured his left thumb making an awkward slide to avoid a pretend tag by Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and the teams later cleared the benches Sunday in Washington's 10-7 win.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Harper was "sore" and would have X-rays on Monday. The reigning NL MVP had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the same thumb in 2014.

Harper led off the third inning with a triple. As he neared third, Kang acted as if a throw was coming and feigned a tag.

Harper went down, was checked by a trainer and stayed in. He scored on Anthony Rendon's double and was replaced in the field in the bottom half by Chris Heisey.

Kang insisted he merely intended to keep Harper from scoring when right fielder Josh Bell's throw was way off line.

"First of all, I meant no harm," Kang said through a translator. "During the relay play, I tried to hold the runner on third base. That's all I tried to do."

The next time Kang came up, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind him and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker as the benches emptied.

Cole said he was trying to pitch inside to Kang. Baker said the entire situation wasn't ideal for a team that is focusing on a playoff run.

"We don't want guys suspended," Baker said. "But you know, boys will be boys, and you've still got to defend your teammates."

Washington's Jayson Werth was in the middle of the skirmish. Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.

"I was very surprised I was the only one ejected considering," Rodriguez said. "I got blamed for being the one that instigated, but you can watch the film yourself."

Werth had a pinch-hit, two-run homer and Heisey had a go-ahead single during a five-run burst in the eighth. The Nationals' rally came against former teammate Felipe Rivero (1-5).

Rivero had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 25 innings since being traded from Washington to the Pirates.

Kang hit a two-run homer off Koda Glover to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh.

Shawn Kelley (3-2) wound up with the win. Former Pirates closer Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 43rd save.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli did not play after taking a foul ball off his wrist Saturday. ... RHP Neftali Feliz (arm) threw off flat ground but is not yet ready for a return to the mound.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark (15-9 2.70 ERA) had his start pushed back one day after the Nationals clinched the NL East on Saturday night. He'll looking for his career-best 16th win as Washington hosts Arizona for a four-game series.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA) will start as Pittsburgh begins a four-game series against the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Kuhl has allowed seven earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in his two previous starts against Chicago this season.

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Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

With the division title clinched the night before, it seemed the Nationals were poised for an uneventful series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. 

That wasn't to be, as the two clubs engaged in a benches clearing altercation in the bottom of the third inning. The tension started in the top of the frame, when Bryce Harper was injured while sliding to third base on a triple. The Nats took exception to Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang faking a tag on Harper, which may have led to the injury. 

So when Nats starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in the bottom of the inning, the near-fracas was ignited.

Cole was immediately ejected from the game, benches cleared, and each side exchanged words. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was also ejected from the game.