What we're watching – Lincecum vs. Pirates

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– Tim Lincecum will make his start Friday on two days’ rest after
throwing 35 pitches in the All-Star Game. He’ll be facing the Pirates
for the second time in his career after losing to them when he gave up
six runs in six innings on Aug. 11, 2007. He’s made 57 starts since and
given up six runs just once more.

– Clay Buchholz makes his 2009 debut for the Red Sox after going 7-2
with a 2.36 ERA for Triple-A Pawtucket. It will be one and done for the
24-year-old, who will take on the Blue Jays and Ricky Romero. The Red
Sox wanted to give their rotation some extra rest after having two
starters chosen as All-Stars — even if neither pitched — and they
could easily manipulate the roster spot with Jed Lowrie set to be
promoted on Saturday.

Game of the Night

Houston vs. L.A. Dodgers – It’ll be Roy Oswalt versus Chad
Billingsley in Manny Ramirez’s second home game since returning from
his suspension. Oswalt has allowed just six runs over 29 innings in his
last four starts, lowering his ERA from 4.48 to 3.85. He’s 5-3 with a
3.91 ERA lifetime versus the Dodgers. Billingsley will be looking to
snap a five-start winless streak that’s taken his ERA from 2.72 to
3.38. He’s 3-2 with a 2.62 ERA against the Astros. It’d help his
chances if Lance Berkman misses the game with a calf strain he
aggravated last night. Ramirez will pass Mickey Mantle for 15th place
on the all-time list with his next homer.

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).