So, was it a bad day for the Yankees yesterday or not?

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I (and a lot of other people) made cracks about yesterday being a bad day for the Yankees, what with Matsui leaving, the Sox getting Lackey and Halladay heading someplace that wasn’t the Bronx. New York Magazine’s Will Leitch is having none of it, however. His take:

(1) The Yankees never had a real chance to get Halladay, so kudos that he didn’t go to Boston and kudos that he left the division;

(2) The Sox signing Lackey and Cameron means that they won’t sign Bay or Holliday; and

(3) The Yankees are now in a position of strength with respect to Damon and maybe someone like Jason Bay.

Maybe. But if what people are saying this morning is true, the Yankees could have had Halladay if they would have offered up Joba or Hughes.  They ended up being the sticking point, not Montero, who most people assumed was off limits. I like Hughes and Chamberlain long term, but if one of them represented the sticking point it was a surmountable sticking point.

I actually think that Damon gained a bit of strength given Matsui leaving town, but probably not so much that it will get him more than two years, and that’s ultimately the whole game for New York with respect to Damon.

Finally, it strikes me that Lackey has gone from overrated to underrated in the space of about 24 hours.  No, he’s not strong when measured against cream of the crop free agent starters, but the competition did just land a guy who would be an ace on most teams he could have joined. Between Leitch here and Edes earlier, I think he’s being sold pretty short all of a sudden.

Ultimately, however, Leitch is right: none of these moves dramatically shifts the balance of power in the cold war that is the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. To abuse the analogy, this is much more like the U.S. overthrowing the government of Chile than it is like, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis or something.

Not all that much has changed here. The Red Sox likely have one major move left in them, and that’s acquiring Adrian Beltre or someone like him. The Yankees could still move on Damon and/or Bay and add a second tier starter.  Even if you assume the best for Boston and the worst for New York coming out of all of that, I think the Yankees are still the team to beat.

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).