Penny throws hard, Bochy messes with him

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Now that Bruce Bochy is managing Brad Penny rather than managing against him, the Giants’ skipper was willing to share an amusing story with Chris Haft of MLB.com:

When Bochy managed the Padres and Penny pitched against them as a visitor with Florida and the Dodgers, the velocity readings at the ballpark were about 5 mph slower than they should have been. That’s because Bochy, knowing that Penny habitually checked the speed of his deliveries after every pitch, tried to mess with the right-hander’s head by ordering the velocity gurus to slow down his readings by 5 mph.



Penny casually mentioned this after throwing his eight shutout innings Wednesday night, and Bochy confessed to this crime Thursday. Trouble was, Penny’s speed-gun readings were still impressive. “I’d see 94,” Bochy said. When he reminded the crew to subtract 5 mph from the speed readings, the reply came, “We are.”

Penny has always been able to light up a radar-gun and in fact he’s throwing harder than ever this season, averaging 94.0 miles per hour with his fastball after being in the 92-93 range for the past half-dozen years. He’s one of only nine MLB starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94 mph this season … and has gone 8-8 with a 5.28 ERA and .293 opponents’ batting average in 25 starts.

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).