Stat of the day: 2009 relief ERA leaders

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Minimum 50 innings. Listed along with each pitcher’s ERA are saves+holds and blown saves.
1. George Sherrill – 1.75 – 32 – 5
2. Trevor Hoffman – 1.76 – 36 – 3
3. Mariano Rivera – 1.82 – 44 – 2
4. Jeremy Affeldt – 1.84 – 33 – 0
5. Kiko Calero – 1.86 – 12 – 4
6. Andrew Bailey – 1.88 – 28 – 4
7. Jonathan Papelbon – 1.91 – 37 – 3
8. Darren O’Day – 1.93 – 22 – 0
9. Ryan Franklin – 1.95 – 39 – 5
10. Jose Mijares – 2.07 – 27 – 1
11. Jose Valverde – 2.08 – 26 – 4
12. Ronald Belisario – 2.09 – 12 – 7
13. David Aardsma – 2.10 – 42 – 4
14. Francisco Cordero – 2.19 – 39 – 4
15. LaTroy Hawkins – 2.20 – 30 – 4
16. Joe Nathan – 2.25 – 45 – 5
16. Joakim Soria – 2.25 – 29 – 3
18. Matt Guerrier – 2.33 – 32 – 3
19. Mike Gonzalez – 2.45 – 27 – 7
19. Brian Sanches – 2.45 – 8 – 3
These aren’t baseball’s top 20 relievers this season, but the top 10 or so are all in the mix here.
So who has really been the best? I see three possibilities. Rivera absolutely has to be considered, given that he’s blown just two of his 46 chances. But how about Affeldt? He’s made 72 appearances this year and hasn’t blown a single lead.
And then there’s candidate No. 3: Bailey. The big plus in his corner is that he’s thrown 81 1/3 innings, compared to 64 1/3 for Rivera and 58 2/3 innings for Affeldt. Also, he hasn’t allowed an unearned run all season. Rivera has allowed one and Affeldt two, so Bailey has them beat when you drop the E from ERA. Bailey has blown four leads, but he actually allowed a total of two runs in 5 1/3 innings in those games. Plus, he has six wins, more than Rivera (three) and Affeldt (one) combined.
I’d say it really comes down to Rivera and Bailey, and while you can argue that Bailey’s performance was more valuable, there’s still no doubt that Rivera is the reliever everyone wants protecting that one-run lead in the ninth.

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).