Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten does it again

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I watched Mark Whiten hit four homers against the Reds in 1993 and thought it was really something.  Yesterday Whiten played in the Hall of Fame Classic and hit two out, winning the game’s MVP honors. He also won the pre-game home run derby.

It’s a different game now that active major leaguers don’t play in it.  Instead it’s an all-star old timers affair. This year it was Team Harmon Killebrew against Team Bob Feller. The Fellers beat the Killers 9-0. 9-0 is also the score that is officially applied to forfeits, so without looking I’m going to assume that the game was suspended after Killebrew threw 22 bats on the field, swore a blue streak at everyone and then got into a fistfight, because that’s just the kind of guy he is.  The game story is in the first link above if you want to see what really happened. Don’t ruin it for me, though.

Anyway, among the players taking part were Whiten, Gary Carter, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro, Ozzie Smith, Paul Blair, Bill Madlock, Mike Pagliarulo and Jeff Kent.

Kent’s inclusion almost doesn’t seem fair given how recent it was that he retired. He played last year too and won the home run derby. Not a surprise considering he probably could have started for a dozen or two major league teams if he were so inclined. The fact that he got beat by Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten this year made me smile a bit.

I know a lot of people raised a ruckus when they changed the Classic from a real game with major leaguers to an old timers thing a couple of years ago, but really, I think I would enjoy the old timer thing much more.

Note: an earlier version of this post referred to Mark Whiten as merely “hittin’ Mark Whiten” and not “Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten.”  I apologize for the massive and inexcusable gaffe. I don’t bring a hell of a lot to this party, but one thing I do bring is a pretty insanely detailed knowledge of trivia relating to players whose prime fell roughly in the 1970-1995 period.  For me to whiff like that on one of those players borders on the criminal.  I’ll try to regain your trust, but I understand if this oversight was the last straw.

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).