No All-Star starters would end long run for Red Sox

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Unless Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz draws the nod in the first inning, all signs point to the Red Sox being without a starter on the AL All-Star squad for the first time since 1998.
There is one qualification there. Manny Ramirez was voted into the lineup in 2003, but he skipped the game because of a hamstring injury, leaving Boston without a starter.
The Red Sox, though, have had someone voted in to represent the AL each of the last nine years. The last time they didn’t was 2000, but they had a starter then because Ramirez, in his final season in Cleveland, sat out the game, making room for Carl Everett.
The string is set to be broken this year. Dustin Pedroia is the highest Sock in the balloting and he’s more than 500,000 votes behind Robinson Cano at second base (1,293,724 to 725,081). Victor Martinez is third at catcher, and Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz are all fourth at their positions. The Red Sox don’t have a single outfielder in the top 15.
The Red Sox still figure to be well represented in Anaheim. The two aforementioned starting pitchers are strong candidates for spots, and Jonathan Papelbon has a chance to go in relief. Youkilis has the AL’s third-best OPS, and Pedroia, even in a down year, is as good a choice as any to back up Cano (Ben Zobrist also has a good argument, but he’s playing quite a bit more outfield than second base). Ortiz is probably a long shot. While he’s been the AL’s second-best DH, there are four first basemen having better seasons in Justin Morneau, Miguel Cabrera, Youkilis and Paul Konerko.
No starters, though. It’s the end of an era.
Red Sox All-Star Game starters
1999 – Nomar Garciaparra
2000 – Carl Everett
2001 – Manny Ramirez
2002 – Manny Ramirez, Shea Hillenbrand, Derek Lowe
2003 – Manny Ramirez*
2004 – Manny Ramirez
2005 – Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon
2006 – Manny Ramirez*, David Ortiz, Mark Loretta
2007 – David Ortiz
2008 – Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia
2009 – Jason Bay

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).