Joey Votto celebrates All-Star snub with two-homer game

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In his first action since being passed over for the All-Star game, Joey Votto homered twice, doubled, and walked last night as the Reds beat the Mets.
I tend not to really care about the All-Star game rosters, because there are bad selections every season, I don’t agree with the focus on first-half performance over multi-year track records, and ultimately everyone will cease caring about the whole thing an hour after the final out, but Votto not making the team would obviously be silly.
He’s now hitting .318 with an NL-leading 21 homers in 78 games, and also leads the league in on-base percentage (.418), slugging percentage (.599), OPS (1.017), total bases (173), and Win Probability Added. Votto ranks third in batting average and runs, fourth in RBIs, fifth in walks, and … well, you get the idea.
Votto has been the best hitter in the league through half of the season and it’s not as if he’s coming out of nowhere with a fluke year. He batted .322/.414/.567 with 25 homers and 38 doubles last season to rank third among NL hitters in OPS and at 26 years old has the ninth-highest career OPS among all active players.
If there’s any justice Votto will either win the MLB.com “Final Vote” contest or at least be added to the NL roster as an injury replacement, because he’s clearly one of the best players in the league and is having an MVP-caliber season for a first-place team.

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).