Jeff Pearlman probably needs to stop writing about the Pirates

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Mere days after writing an article for Sports Illustrated about the Pittsburgh Pirates that he kicked himself over for being “mediocre,” Jeff Pearlman posts about what he feels to be another Pirate misstep: the July 2008 trade of of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf:

The Pittsburgh loyalist–an odd breed who gets punched in the head
repeatedly (by his loved one, no less) while screaming, “More! More!
More!” looks at this deal 1 1/2 years later and says, “Not bad.” Nady,
after all, has been injury prone and, when healthy, only moderately
productive. And, before his dazzling World Series showing of two months
ago, Marte was pretty much a Yankee bust–a 5.40 ERA in 25 games last
season, a 9.45 ERA in 21 games this season.

So what did the Pirates receive for two craved medallions? Daniel
McCutcheon, who at best will be a fourth starter for a bad team. Jeff
Karstens, a non-roster invitee for 2010 who will likely wind up in
Triple A for somebody. Ross Ohlendorf, a No. 5 starter or long reliever
for 90 percent of Major League teams (but, in Pittsburgh, a key
component of the rotation). And, last but not least, the mighty Jose
Tabata, a 21-year-old outfielder and the key to the deal for the
Pirates.

This analysis is utterly perplexing to me.  Just days before, in that “mediocre” column, Pearlman took the Pirates to task for allegedly signing expensive, over-the-hill veterans (never mind that they don’t really do that anymore). Now, he’s ripping them for trading older guys who are about to become expensive for young, cheap guys with a lot of upside?

Maybe Jose Tabata doesn’t become the next Manny Ramirez — you never know what will happen with kids like that — but if the Pirates shouldn’t be trading guys they can’t use for promising young players like Tabata, what in Earth should they be doing?

And what’s with the slam on Ross Ohlendorf?  He won 11 games and had a 3.92 ERA — which was above average for the league — for a crappy team. How does that translate to “a No. 5 starter or long reliever
for 90 percent of Major League teams”?  If he was on the Yankees or Dodgers last year he probably would have gotten a postseason start. In fact, I can’t think of a single team that wouldn’t have had a place in their rotation for a guy with an ERA+ of 105 last season.  If the deal was Nady and Marte straight up for Ohlendorf, the Pirates would have won the trade.

Look, I’ve been highly critical of the Pirates over the years for certain things that they do. But one thing they have started to do recently is to acquire guys who, while iffy, are young, cheap and high ceilings. Tabata is one of those guys. So is Lastings Milledge.  It may not work, but it’s the best they can do, and in light of that, it’s pretty smart baseball.

So, two Pirates columns in a week and two whiffs for Jeff Pearlman. Maybe he should cut his losses and start in new with, say, the Royals.

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).