Poor planning, lack of cash could force Reds to slash payroll

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Less than four months ago the Reds traded three players to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen and the $11.8 million remaining on his contract for 2010, but now Ed Price of Fanhouse reports that they “need to slash payroll” and may be forced to shop high-paid veterans Brandon Phillips, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo.
Harang and Arroyo are solid starters, but they’re hardly top-of-the-rotation material and Cincinnati would likely have to eat some salary to get either of them off the books. Arroyo is owed $11 million next season and $11 million or a $2 million buyout for 2011. Harang is owed $12.5 million next season and $12.75 million or a $2 million buyout for 2011. Good luck shedding those contracts in this environment.
Phillips would be far easier to trade, because he’s 28 years old, excellent defensively at second base, hit .276/.329/.447 with 20 homers and 25 steals this season, and is owed a more palatable $17.75 million over the next two seasons with a $12 million option or $1 million buyout for 2012. Ironically, general manager Walt Jocketty explained that the extent of the payroll issues may be determined by offseason ticket sales, which will no doubt be hurt by talk of the team having to deal away well-known players.
Getting rid of closer Francisco Cordero and the $25 million that he’s owed over the next two seasons would seemingly be another option to lessen the payroll, but Price notes that the Reds “would prefer to keep” him. Apparently paying $12.5 million per season for a closer who pitches 70 innings is absolutely vital for a team that hasn’t finished above .500 since 2000. Or something.

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).