Mauer wins AL MVP with 27 of 28 first-place votes

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Only a stray first-place vote for Miguel Cabrera kept Joe Mauer from being a unanimous pick for AL MVP by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Mark Teixeira finished runner-up, with Yankees teammate Derek Jeter placing third, and Cabrera finished fourth while somehow convincing one professional baseball writer that he was the league’s best player.
For a full breakdown of the voting, click here.
Mauer certainly deserved a unanimous selection for putting together one of the greatest seasons by a catcher in the history of baseball. After spending all of April on the disabled list, he hit .365 for the highest mark ever by a catcher and captured his third batting title in four seasons.
He also smacked 28 homers and drew 76 walks to lead the AL in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, becoming the first catcher to ever win the sabermetric triple crown (AVG, OBP, SLG) and the first AL player from any position to do so since George Brett in 1980.
For someone to hit .365/.444/.587 in 606 plate appearances while playing Gold Glove defense over nearly 1,000 innings at the game’s most demanding position is a truly historic season.
Mauer previously finished sixth in 2006 and fourth in 2008 despite deserving more MVP support each time, so adding significant power to his repertoire this season clearly made a huge difference for the voters (everyone but Keizo Konishi of the Kyodo News, that is). He’s the first catcher to win AL MVP since Ivan Rodriguez in 1999 and follows Justin Morneau, Zoilo Versalles, Harmon Killebrew, and Rod Carew as the Twins’ fifth MVP.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.