Thursday's thoughts: Hanigan seals his fate

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– You know Dusty Baker didn’t want to do it, but with Ramon Hernandez
getting a day off, Ryan Hanigan was moved up to the fifth spot against
the Braves. It was the first time this season that Hanigan, who entered
with a .395 OBP, hit higher than seventh. Most of his starts had come
from the eighth spot. Sure enough, Hanigan went on to clog up the bases
in three of his four plate appearances as the Reds were shut out by the
Braves. He’ll almost surely be benched or at least dropped in the
lineup on Friday.

– The Mariners could learn something from their rookie first
baseman: Mike Carp has walked twice in five plate appearances since his
callup Wednesday. His teammates have walked twice and fanned 21 times
in those two games.

– The Jays used seven relievers in their win over Phillies, and it
was the one that made his season debut, Jeremy Accardo, who earned the
save. Brandon League cost Jason Frasor the opportunity when he couldn’t
get through the eighth cleanly. Frasor ended up coming in to get the
final out of the eighth, but not before he allowed a game-tying single.
He then left with the pitcher’s spot in the order due up, but he
probably would have come out anyway, since the Phillies had Chase Utley
and Ryan Howard starting the ninth. B.J. Ryan took over with the Jays
back on top by one, retired one of the two and then made way for
Accardo, who allowed only a single while finishing up. It’s probably
not a sign of things to come, but Gaston did have the right idea in
playing matchups against the unbalanced Philly lineup.

– Ozzie Guillen will be second-guessed after pulling Gavin Floyd for
a pinch-hitter with the White Sox up 5-1 in the eighth. Floyd was at
just 90 pitches, and he hadn’t given up more than a single all day.
Scott Linebrink, with some help from a Chris Getz error, ended up
blowing the lead in the eighth, and the White Sox lost 6-5 in the
ninth.

– Let’s see just how cruel the baseball gods are: Chris Young was up
to .276/.400/.569 for the month before suffering a leg injury in the
midst of a 4-for-4 game against the Royals. He entered June at
.178/.220/.313 this season.

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).