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Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts on being first pair of opposing black managers in postseason

Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts on being first pair of opposing black managers in postseason

On the week that marks the 42nd anniversary of Frank Robinson being hired as Major League Baseball’s first African-American manger, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts are about to make a different kind of history.    

As the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers get set for their NL division series on Friday, Baker and Roberts will become the first pair of African-American managers to square off in the postseason. It’s a milestone not lost on both men, especially considering they are MLB’s only black skippers at the moment.  

“I was hoping that it would be [former Texas Rangers manager] Ron Washington and myself in the World Series before,” Baker said after Thursday’s pre-NLDS workout. “I mean, significance is it gives us some pride in being African-American to show people that not only can we do the job, but we can do the job better than most. Especially this year.”

The 67-year-old Baker, who’s in his 20th season leading a big-league team, has been vocal in recent years about baseball’s lack of minority hiring among the managerial ranks. Last November, when it appeared he was out of the running for the Nats job, he expression his frustration. 

“How many teams are willing to accept what we have to offer? We’ve got something to offer,” Baker told the San Francisco Chronicle then. “How much respect do they have for my knowledge and expertise and wisdom over the years? There’s a certain thing called a life experience degree. There used to be.

“I get tired of talking about it. We should be talking about another issue at this point in time. We’re talking about the same thing we were talking about 40 years ago."

Baker, of course, was hired by Washington a few days later. In his first season with the Nats, he led them to a 95-win campaign and their third division title since 2012.

Likewise, Roberts oversaw a Dodgers team that won the NL West for the fourth straight season, doing so in his rookie year as a manager. While he wanted to keep the attention on the series at hand, the 44-year-old also acknowledged the significance of the moment. 

“Obviously, it's important, and it doesn't go unnoticed or underappreciated,” Roberts said. “I think speaking for Dusty, myself, what it means to the game of baseball, to society…I think that when we look back, it’s going to be more special. But I definitely know it's certainly noted, and not to go unappreciated.”

There may be a ways to go before baseball's managerial hires accurately reflect the more diverse demographics among its players. But as clubs with vacancies begin the search for their next clubhouse leaders, Baker hopes the immediate impact that he and Roberts have had on their respective teams may influence some of the sport’s decision makers.

“Hopefully it motivates other organizations to get some African-American managers,” Baker said. “Also to motivate other players that are playing now, and former players that have managerial aspirations. It probably brings a lot of pride across America and not only African-American people, but everybody.”

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Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Neither of the past two NL Cy Young Award winners had his best stuff, though Max Scherzer handled things much better than Jake Arrieta.

Scherzer allowed one run and two hits as the Washington Nationals knocked Arrieta out in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night. While Arrieta was slow to the plate and allowed seven stolen bases, Scherzer (9-5) threw a strong six innings, striking out six with no walks and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

"I didn't really have great fastball command tonight, but I was able to use my offspeed to kind of collect outs when I needed to and I didn't walk anybody," said Scherzer, who allowed an earned run in the first inning for the first time since April but was in command the rest of the night. "When we needed shutdown innings we got them."

Arrieta (7-6), on the other hand, struggled with his control as he issued a season-high six walks and allowed five earned runs, getting the hook two batters into the fifth inning. The 2015 Cy Young winner hadn't walked more than three batters in a game this season.

Manager Joe Maddon quipped that the Cubs "let the wrong guys on base," but catcher Miguel Montero blamed Arrieta for all the steals.

"The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate," a visibly frustrated Montero said. "It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time."

Four of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise record seven steals came from speedy shortstop Trea Turner, who Arrieta called a "factor" any time he's on.

"I don't care who is behind the plate," Arrieta said. "He's a threat."

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Washington manager Dusty Baker said the team knew Arrieta was a pitcher to run on, and the result was a lot of small ball for a team accustomed to driving in runs with power. Washington center fielder Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Scherzer washed out the RBI triple he allowed to Kris Bryant in the first by driving in a run with an infield single off Arrieta's glove in the fourth.

When Scherzer was lifted after 93 pitches through six with a comfortable 6-1 lead, the Nationals' beleaguered bullpen got three clean innings of relief from Enny Romero, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Matt Albers.

Trea Turner tied the franchise record with four steals in a game, repeating his own feat from two weeks ago. He had a chance in the eighth to break the record and move within one of the most in a game in the modern era of baseball but did not try with Bryce Harper up and a five-run lead.

"I don't think I was held, but I didn't know if I was supposed to go," said Turner, who has 32 stolen bases this season.

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

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With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.