The Week Ahead: Finding a role for Pedro

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They’re loving Cliff Lee in Philadelphia.

The left-hander acquired from the Indians two days before the trade deadline was dominant in his debut for the reigning champions on Friday in San Francisco, pitching a four-hitter. He’s scheduled to make his first start in the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday against the Rockies.

Meanwhile, Pedro Martinez continues to progress in the minor leagues, and may need just one more start before moving up to the big club.

So what will the Phillies do with their sudden wealth of arms?

Once Martinez is called up, he’ll be one of six pitchers – joining Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ — battling for five spots.

(Rodrigo Lopez, who was starting as well, moved to the bullpen after the Lee trade, and could end up back in the minors.)

Lee, Hamels, and Blanton are obviously locks to start. That leaves Martinez, Moyer and Happ fighting for two rotation spots.

It seems unlikely that Moyer would be happy in the pen. (Can you imagine trying to keep your 43-year-old body ready to pitch on a daily basis?) And Happ, though a youngster with bullpen experience, has really grown as a starter this season, going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 starts.

So would the Phillies put Pedro in the bullpen? Not only does it seem possible. It seems prudent.

In his last minor league start, Martinez was solid for four innings. His fastball had movement and topped out at 93. But he tired in the fifth, giving up four runs.

He still has moments where his stuff is filthy, but he’s aging and prone to breaking down physically. The rotation is otherwise solid, while the bullpen, with Brad Lidge proving human even when healthy, has had its struggles.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pedro in the bullpen is a possibility, but unlikely.

The day the Phils acquired Lee, Amaro said that the club had not signed Martinez to be a reliever, though both parties were open to the possibility. Martinez’s contract includes a games-finished clause, according to a baseball source with knowledge of the deal. That clause indicates that the bullpen is not out of the question for him, although that role may not be plausible for a 37-year-old with a thick medical file.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee has said many times that he does not see Moyer as a reliever. That would leave Happ as the likely candidate.

Stay tuned.

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
*Brewers at Dodgers, Aug. 3-5: The Brewers are on the cusp of falling out of contention, while the Dodgers suddenly must worry about the health of their pitching staff.

*Rockies at Phillies, Aug. 4-6: The Rockies, entering the week on a four-game winning streak, are rewarded with outings against Jamie Moyer, J.A. Happ and Cliff Lee.

*Twins at Tigers, Aug. 7-9: Big chance for the Twins to gain some ground in the leaders of the tightly-packed AL Central. And they’ll miss newly-acquired Jarrod Washburn, too.

*Red Sox at Yankees, Aug. 6-9: The big boys square off, entering the week ½-game apart atop the AL East. And it’s a four-game series. Enjoy.

*Rangers at Angels, Aug. 7-9: The top two teams in the AL West do battle. Although the way the Angels have been playing, Texas might be better off chasing the wild card.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Cubs at Reds (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:08 p.m.: Red Sox at Rays (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rangers at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Red Sox at Yankees (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: Twins at Tigers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Yankees (ESPN)
*Check local listings

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).