Report: Chipper Jones tore his ACL, out for the year. Maybe forever

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Well, @$#!&%.

Sports radio station 790 The Zone is reporting that Chipper Jones has a torn ACL and that he’ll be out for the year.  Obviously this is distressing to me. But not for the obvious reason.

Yes, losing Chipper Jones — who has been back to his old All-Star self since June — is a big blow to the Braves’ 2010 playoff hopes.  But the Phillies are going to get Utley, Victorino and Howard back, Billy Wagner looks shaky lately, Jonny Venters has been used so much that his arm is going to fall off soon, and Brooks Conrad hitting pinch-hit grand slams is not exactly a strategic plan on which you’d bet the mortgage.  The point is with Chipper or without him, there were no guarantees that the Braves were going to win the division.

No, the distressing thing about this is that there’s a good chance that Jones’ career ended crumpled on the turf of Minute Maid Park and not with a tip of his hat in Atlanta on the final day of the season (or, wish upon wish, the playoffs).  And it may be over. Jones has hinted strongly at retirement, and that was even without the prospect of a painful rehab.

The only thing making me feel at all good about this is that, if this is the end of Jones’ career — a career in which he was frequently and often unfairly maligned for his defense — it ended on a spectacular defensive play. That pick, jump and throw he made was a thing of beauty, and I’ll always remember it even if I want to block the landing out of my mind.

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).