Link-O-Rama: Seattle relievers no longer gladiators

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* This is easily the greatest sentence I’ve read this week: “Prior to Tuesday night’s series opener against the Royals, the Mariners were told by Major League Baseball officials that the gladiator helmets the relievers have been toting around with them could no longer be taken onto the field, or be in the bullpen during games.”
* For the second time this season all 300 pounds of Bartolo Colon have gone missing from the White Sox and the “have you seen this man?” photo from the Chicago Sun-Times story is guaranteed to haunt your dreams. Seriously, you’ve been warned.
* My favorite mainstream newspaper sports columnist is now my favorite Sports Illustrated staffer who occasionally writes for a newspaper. Or something. Joe Posnanski has taken a senior writer position at SI and writing for the Kansas City Star will no longer be his primary gig, although he apparently plans to continue writing for the newspaper occasionally. Whatever the case, it’s a huge addition for SI and a huge loss for the people of Kansas City. Posnanski is one of his generation’s elite baseball writers.
* Bill James is one of the greatest, best selling, and most influential baseball writers of all time, with a 30-year catalog of amazing work, yet it’s 2009 and a high-profile columnist for one of country’s largest newspapers calls him “the stat geek who has made a fortune taking credit for having invented on-base percentage.” I’m not even sure where to begin with the wrongheadedness of that description, so I won’t even try, but wow are there some cranky, uninformed old dudes writing about sports.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.