Sorry, Houston fans: Wade, Justice share same brain

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Each time I start to wonder why I still have the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice on my RSS reader, he produces a gem like this:

Here’s my five-minute analysis of the $4.5-million signing of Pedro Feliz. I haven’t spoken to GM Ed Wade. In other words, I’m thinking for myself. Run for your lives!
I believe Chris Johnson will still be given every opportunity to win the third-base position this spring. Remember that he was so highly regarded last spring that the Astros figured he’d spend a few weeks at Round Rock, then become the everyday third baseman.

Actually, I do remember the terribly misguided belief that Johnson was nearly ready to take over at third base. Then he went on to hit a thoroughly unexceptional .281/.323/.461 with 13 homers in 384 at-bats in the PCL.
And one of the very important things to remember here is that Johnson’s bat is the strongest part of his game. He lacks range at third base, and he offers nothing on the basepaths.
But one can still be sane and believe Johnson is a legitimate prospect. The insanity is that Justice thinks the cash-strapped Astros just spent $4.5 million on a backup third baseman when they’re faced with a rotation that’s set to include Bud Norris, Felipe Paulno and Brian Moehler.
Sadly, the Astros are probably out of cash now and they still have two-fifths of a rotation, one above average infielder and questionable bullpen depth. It’s going to be an awfully long year for fans. Frankly, they might as well root for 100 losses, since 90 might not be enough to cost Wade his job.

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).