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CHICAGO — New Chicago Cubs manager David Ross and team president Theo Epstein pushed back on the notion that Ross simply will be an extension of the front office after working as a special assistant in it over the past three years.

Ross is set out to be his own man.

“I will be making my own decisions and continue with feedback from the group,” Ross said in his introductory news conference Monday. “I want to stay true to who I am. These guys responded to me when I was here as a player. I don’t think that will change as a manager.”

Epstein was even more blunt in his assessment, making sure everyone understands Custom Chicago Cubs Nike Jerseys brass won’t be pulling the strings with its first-year manager.

“If you’re a front office and you want a puppet, you don’t hire David Ross,” Epstein said. “Anyone that knows Rossy, knows that. He is absolutely his own man.”

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Ross signed a three-year deal to replace Joe Maddon, who won a World Series with the team while having Ross as his backup catcher and a key team leader. With the Cubs and Maddon agreeing to part ways after the season, it’s Ross’ turn now to take the helm after the Cubs missed the postseason for the first time in five years.

The organization hopes Ross will exert the same strong personality he showed as a teammate, when sometimes uncomfortable conversations were needed in the dugout and clubhouse.

The team views some of the recent problems it’s had as a lack of accountability. That won’t be an issue for Ross — despite being known as the congenial “grandpa Rossy” when he was a player for the Cubs.

“I think maybe there is a misconception of the fun-loving grandpa Rossy, which I love and am very thankful for, but I don’t think that’s me in the dugout as much as I would love to say I’m that guy,” Ross said. “The grandpa Rossy thing is a little bit overblown.”

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Although the Cubs are hiring a player from their championship season, they are adamant they want to look forward not backward. Epstein called it a “crutch” to fall back on the successes of the past, and Ross agreed.

“It’s not about 2016,” he said. “It’s about the expectation of winning. It’s about winning championships. It’s about holding yourself accountable to things that you found in winning. Let’s emphasize those.”

Added Epstein: “When there is too much of looking back to 2016, it can become a crutch that prevents you from moving forward … I just have all the confidence in the world he’s going to establish a new direction, a new voice, that’s completely looking forward not back.”

As for his managerial style, Ross said he’s in wait-and-see mode. One thing is for sure, though: He will let the game tell him what he needs to do.

“I’m going to be a manager that wants to watch the game and see how it plays out,” he said. “I think managers that go in with a preset notion can sometimes get in trouble.”

And as you might expect out of a longtime backup catcher-turned-first-year manager, he knows his strength will be with his players on day one. In fact, he’s relying on it until he gets some experience managing a game. The team is hopeful it will all come together for him as together they enter a new era of Cubs baseball.

“The vibe in the dugout, how I carry myself, the communication skills, the relationships,” Ross said, reeling off things he thinks will come as second nature to him. “The in-game stuff is going to take me a minute.”

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NEW YORK — The Astros hit Masahiro Tanaka hard through the first two innings Thursday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series and had nothing to show for it. In the third inning, they cashed in when another one of those rockets from George Springer cleared the left-field fence at Yankee Stadium for a three-run home run that spotted Houston a 3-1 lead.

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Game Date Time Matchup/
Result TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12 NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13 HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15 HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 LIVE HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*- If necessary | All times ET
shop Shop for postseason gear: Astros | Yankees
• Postseason schedule and bracket
The blast was Springer’s 13th career postseason homer, again setting an Astros club record. As was the case before, that record might not stand for long — Springer shared the mark with teammate José Altuve, who went deep in Game 3 for his 12th career postseason homer.

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NEW YORK – Astros manager AJ Hinch took offense to the notion his team was using whistles to steal signs in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Major League Baseball investigated the accusations levied by the Yankees and has cleared the Astros of any wrongdoing.

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That didn’t stop Hinch on Thursday from blasting those responsible for the allegations, which suggested someone in Houston’s dugout was whistling to batters to alert them of which pitch was coming. He said those who believe the Astros have been cheating should come forward publicly. Hinch said the allegations are “a joke.”

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“It made me laugh because it’s ridiculous,” he said. “And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in Spring Training. It apparently works, even when it doesn’t happen. So to me, I understand the gamesmanship. I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going.”

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Game Date Time Matchup/
Result TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12 NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13 HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15 HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 LIVE HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*- If necessary | All times ET
shop Shop for postseason gear: Astros | Yankees

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone understands that pitch-tipping and sign-stealing are part of the game, and that everyone tries to gain whatever advantage they can — within reason.

“Sure, there’s boundaries,” Boone said. “Yeah. We could have a conversation for days on that. So, yeah, there’s boundaries. There’s things you’re not allowed to do and things that are perfectly within the context of the game. So, yeah.”

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Hinch pointed out the Astros had only three hits in Game 1, a 7-0 loss, which isn’t really indicative of an offense having an edge. Also, he said nobody has come forward with any audio evidence that any whistling took place near the dugout.

“The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition,” Hinch said. “When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes. My opinions, my reaction is all for you guys to tweet out and put on the broadcast. But we have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they’re so passionate about it, to comment about my team or my players.

“There’s nothing going on other than the competition on the field. The fact that I had to field the question before a really, really cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate. But we can put it to rest. That will be the last question I answer about pitch-tipping or pitch-stealing.”

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The Astros have picked up some pitch-tipping cues at least once in the playoffs, but that’s considered gamesmanship in the context of the sport. Tyler Glasnow of the Rays said he was tipping his pitches in a Game 5 loss to the Astros in the AL Division Series. Houston appeared to have picked up some cues in Game 2 from Yankees starter James Paxton, but Paxton says there was no evidence he was tipping pitches.

Paxton on tipping pitches, Game 5
Paxton on tipping pitches, Game 5
01:31
4:54 PM EDT
“Pitch-tipping is a little bit of a different story,” Hinch said. “If you don’t want us to know the pitch is coming, don’t do something that demonstrates what pitch you’re going to pitch or what you’re going to throw. But they’re doing the same thing. Every hitter wants to know what’s coming by virtue of what a pitcher is doing or not doing.”

For his part, Boone does not believe Paxton was tipping his pitches in Game 2.

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“We’re confident that we’re buttoned up in a lot of ways, and I’m not really — I really don’t think it’s much of an issue,” he said.

Allegations of cheating have followed the Astros in recent years. The Indians filed a complaint following Game 3 of last year’s ALDS after an Astros employee was observed aiming his phone at the Indians’ dugout and taking pictures. MLB later said the Astros were conducting surveillance and not spying. Earlier in 2018, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer suggested Astros pitchers were increasing spin rates by using foreign substances such as pine tar.

“I mean, it sucks for our players, because those guys are so talented,” said Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, who said he will employ multiple signs when he starts Game 5 on Friday night. “And I don’t think anything should take away from what they’re able to accomplish. And so, in that aspect, it’s disappointing. But I think we know what’s going on there. Look at what we’re getting accused of. How many runs did we score in that first game? But I understand where the paranoia comes from. We have it. I have it.”

Three innings later, Houston took a commanding 6-1 lead with a three-run homer by Carlos Correa, the walk-off hero of Game 2, off Chad Green. Correa’s homer, 109.5 mph off the bat, was hit with a launch angle of 17 degrees, tied for the Astros’ lowest over-the-wall homer of 2019.

Correa’s 3-run homer
Correa’s 3-run homer
00:06
10:35 PM EDT
Springer lined out against Tanaka to lead off the game, a ball that came off the bat at 107.8 mph, per Statcast. Springer then clubbed the home run on a splitter — the second straight splitter he saw in the at-bat — that hung over the heart of the plate. The homer carried a Statcast-projected 408 feet and left the bat at 109.8 mph.

The swing also represented a significant breakthrough for the Astros against Tanaka, who was charged with three runs in a postseason start for the first time in his career. Tanaka’s streak of seven postseason starts with two or fewer runs allowed represented a Major League record, and he entered the game with the second-lowest postseason ERA among starting pitchers (1.32) since earned runs became an official stat in 1912.

Five of the first six batted balls by Houston’s lineup before the homer were hit with an exit velocity of at least 91.0 mph, including three in excess of 100 mph. The only weakly hit ball had been Josh Reddick’s 73.7 mph single in the third inning, which followed a leadoff walk by Robinson Chirinos to set up Springer’s blast.

The Astros continued the rally with a pair of singles from Altuve and Michael Brantley, and two runners moved into scoring position before two flyouts allowed Tanaka to escape without any more damage.