Let the record reflect that B.J. Upton hustled last night

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My virtual friend* Jonah Keri alerted me to something interesting from last night’s Rays-Orioles game. I didn’t see it live, but I just went back and watched the highlight on MLB.tv and I agree that it’s interesting enough to be worth passing along.

*While my previous professional life involved meeting real people, life as a blogger basically entails talking to people on the Internet all day. Jonah is one of those people who — if we were insurance salesmen or consultants or something — I would have met in person a long time ago, but because we’re both basically Internet baseball people, we’ve only chatted, exchanged tweets and emails, etc.  There are a lot of people I know like that, actually, and henceforth I’m just going to refer to them as my “virtual friends” until I’ve actually had the chance to meet them in person. After all, what if I met Jonah tomorrow and we hated each others’ guts on some visceral level?  Would have hated to call him my friend without knowing that!

One out, seventh inning, Rays up 8-4, runners on the corners and Miguel Tejada at bat.  Tejada hits a ball into right center that Rays’ right fielder Ben Zobrist had to run for, but totally should have caught. Instead, it hit off his glove and skipped to the warning track.  Jonah watches a lot of Rays games these days — for good reason — and says that it’s a play that Zobrist usually makes.

Zobrist goes after the ball, but it’s B.J. Upton — not Zobrist — who is, in Jonah’s words “hustling his ass off.” Upton beats Zobrist to the ball, grabs it and throws it in.

It’s a little thing in the course of a long season — and it didn’t end up saving any runs here — but how often do we hear about B.J. Upton hustling?  Never, really, but you can be damn sure that the moment he loafs he’s going to be all over ESPN and the blogs and everywhere. For that matter, if Upton just let a ball doink off his glove like Zobrist did — which did end up costing the Rays runs — I’m guessing he’d get a lot more flak for it than Zobrist did.

Again, not a big thing, but I think it’s worth noting that B.J. Upton hustled last night.

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).