Indians send struggling Carmona to rookie-ball

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Fausto Carmona coughing up seven runs in two innings against the Twins
last night was apparently the final straw for the Indians, as they
dropped the struggling right-hander from the rotation and sent him to
the minors this afternoon.

Rather than simply option him to Triple-A, the Indians have decided
to send Carmona all the way down rookie-ball, although with the Arizona
League still a couple weeks from getting underway it looks like he’ll
basically just be at extended spring training for a while.

Clearly the Indians feel that his struggles go beyond simply
pitching poorly and extend to the erosion of his mechanics or mental
state. Or maybe both. While extreme, the move is not totally without
precedent. Roy Halladay and Dontrelle Willis are examples of big-name
pitchers who were sent to the low minors at the peak of their
struggles, with the demotion working wonders for Halladay and, so far
at least, doing little for Willis.

Carmona came out of nowhere to finish fourth in the Cy Young
balloting two years ago, using his power sinker to go 19-8 with a 3.06
ERA and 137/61 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. Since then he has a 6.10 ERA
and 94/111 K/BB ratio in 181 innings, including an MLB-worst 41 walks
in 61 frames this season. He’s still working at 92-94 miles per hour
and still getting tons of ground balls, but just can’t throw the ball
over the plate consistently (although he’s not in Rick Ankiel
territory).

As part of the contract extension that Carmona signed in April of
last year, the Indians owe him $4.9 million next season and $6.1
million in 2011, and then have $28 million worth of team options from
2012-2014. Locking players up before they hit arbitration is a strategy
that the Indians and other teams have used successfully over the years,
but Carmona is looking like an example of how it can backfire.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).