Link-O-Rama: Hoffman's new deal

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* Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details on Trevor Hoffman’s new contract with the Brewers. He’ll earn $7.5 million in 2010 and the team holds a $7.5 million option or $500,000 buyout for 2011. Based on games finished in 2010 his 2011 salary can increase to $8.5 million and the buyout can rise to $1 million.
In other words, at least Hoffman will make $8 million for one season and at most he’ll make $16 million for two seasons. Hoffman converted 37-of-41 saves with a 1.83 ERA and 48/14 K/BB ratio over 54 innings in his first season in Milwaukee, showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 41.
* Fredi Gonzalez will return as Marlins manager next season, but pitching coach Mark Wiley and first-base coach Andy Fox won’t be on his 2010 staff.
* LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has had a hell of a time trying to get to New York, but he notes that the Twins arrived there at 3:05 a.m. and “most of them will be tired, buzzed from beer and champagne.” Just part of the reason why Minnesota is the biggest underdog of the postseason.
* Terry Francona announced this morning that Jed Lowrie will be on the Red Sox’s playoff roster despite getting a total of just 76 plate appearances in an injury-wrecked season.

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.