Wagner shows Red Sox are smarter than Mets

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Now that Billy Wagner has signed with the Braves we can fully assess just how masterfully general manager Theo Epstein and company handled his brief time in Boston from the Red Sox’s point of view.
Back in late August the Red Sox sent a pair of players to be named later to the Mets for Wagner, agreeing to assume $3.2 million in salary. Chris Carter and Eddie Lora turned out to be the PTBNLs, and while certainly not without value both are fairly marginal prospects.
However, because the Red Sox were able to take Wagner’s salary off the Mets’ hands and then made the correct decision to offer him arbitration, they now stand to receive the No. 19 overall pick and another selection between the first and second rounds in next June’s draft. So for $3.2 million and a pair of fungible minor leaguers the Red Sox are going to end up with 15 appearances of 1.98 ERA pitching from Wagner, the 19th overall pick, and a second-round pick.
The whole process is an example of why teams with big budgets have advantages that go beyond being able to hand out huge multi-year contracts. Most teams wouldn’t have had the payroll leeway to add $3.2 million in late August and many teams would have shied away from offering Wagner arbitration for fear that he’d accept and stick them with a big commitment for 2010. Boston had payroll room to add Wagner and no real worries about being stuck with a bill for 2010.
Along with some clever maneuvering by Epstein that basically allowed them to buy a pair of high draft picks, which a study by Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus determined to be worth around $12 million. Of course, having a big budget alone doesn’t mean everything, because the Mets have nearly as much cash to fling around as the Red Sox and simply failed to recognize (or care about) Wagner’s value as a source of draft picks. Instead they saved $3 million in cash and lost $12 million in draft picks.

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).