Butchering the National Anthem

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American Flag.jpgI’m not a fanatic about it — I think some of the more unique interpretations of the National Anthem are kinda neat — but MLB.com’s Mike Bauman has a point:

“The Star-Spangled Banner” has been trivialized, tortured and
trampled upon at ballparks throughout America. Obviously, there are
completely acceptable renditions of the anthem sung before baseball
games, but too many alleged singers, given the privilege of singing the
national anthem, are acting like they are singing torch songs in a
lounge.
They are singing painfully elongated versions of the anthem,
in which the meaning of the song is distorted, warped, lost. All that
remains is these people trying to impress the world with their vocal
chops.

From a purely musical perspective “The Star Spangled Banner” is kind of an awful song. It ranges up and down and all over the place and its lyrics and phrasings are awkward to sing. In light of that, I can see why some people are tempted to do weird things to it.

But I gotta say, if ballparks decided to completely dispense with live, sung versions of the thing and went with, I dunno, recordings or small military bands or something, I’d be just fine with it.

At least until a Congress with common sense comes along and makes “America the Beautiful” our National Anthem. Much, much better song.

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).