And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Rays 4, Yankees 3: Dan Johnson hit two homers off Phil Hughes. But really, the fun story here was Derek Jeter acting his way onto first base with a phantom HBP in the seventh. He grimaced and called the trainer out and everything, even though replays clearly showed that the ball hit the end of his bat (which Jeter admitted after the game). Joe Maddon got ejected arguing the HBP call, even though he was right. I wonder if Jeter will send him flowers or something?  Anyway, I’ll have more on this later this morning, because (a) it was kind of a fun play when you think about it; and (b) it has me thinking about some larger issues about the media and Jeter and stuff.

Phillies 10, Marlins 5: Look! A contending NL East team winning the games it’s supposed to win. How novel. Halladay gets his 19th win. The point will get muddled because in this case the NL wins leader also happens to be the best overall pitcher, but he’s not doing anything to hurt his Cy Young chances. He probably has three more starts left, two against Atlanta — whom he owns — and one against the Mets. Dude could have 22 wins by the time it’s over.

Nationals 4, Braves 2. Blah. Didn’t you hear me? I said Blah!

Rockies 9, Padres 6: Troy Tulowitzki (2 HR, 7 RBI) cannot be bargained with. He cannot be reasoned with. He cannot feel remorse, or pity or fear. And he will not stop until you are dead. But if Tulowitzki is the Arnold version of the Terminator, let’s be sure to note that Adrian Gonzalez was the liquid metal version from T2 (i.e. almost as good, but not victorious): 2 HR and 5 RBI for him. Shame that they both got lowered into that molten lava at the end of the game.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: The Giants have allowed four runs in their past five games. Sure, two of those games were losses because they themselves were shut out, but that’s life in the NL West. Bruce Bochy: “It’s good for these guys because you can’t lose your concentration or focus out there when you’re in games like this.” Yeah, winning one 7-2 or something wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 3: The Cubs sweep the Cards in St. Louis for the first time 22 years.

Reds 7, Diamondbacks 5: The Reds’ magic number is now 10. A great catch by Jay Bruce won this one. My guess is that he won’t get the gold glove because it’s a reputation thing and it takes a couple of years for a guy’s defense to capture the zeitgeist of the voters, but people I know who watch the Reds everyday think Bruce is deserving of the honor (as did Thom Brennaman announcing the Bruce highlight, but hey, Thom Brennaman).

Twins 9, White Sox 3: Another day, another 9-3 loss for the White Sox. Theirs is one of only six games tonight. If it’s a Sox loss, look for the ugliness and finger pointing to begin in Chicago first thing tomorrow morning.

Mets 8, Pirates 7: Pittsburgh jumped out to a 5-0 lead but lost it damn quickly, as the Mets put up a seven spot in the fourth thanks in large part to the Pirates crappy defense. If the Pirates were a computer game, I would have set the computer to “auto manage” about a month ago, set the schedule in motion and gone off to get a sandwich. When I got back, it would all be over and I could start over.

Rangers 11, Tigers 7: The Rangers are the first team to get their magic number under 10.

Angels 7, Indians 0: Jered Weaver one-hits the Tribe over seven innings with 7Ks and no walks.

Brewers 8, Astros 6: The Brewers blew a 5-0 lead, but tied it up in the ninth and then took the game on a Mat Gamel ground rule double in the tenth and tacked on an insurance run for good measure. “I just feel good that the guys played all the way to the end,” Ken Macha said after the game. That’s what I’d say too if I was pretty certain that a meeting was going to take place soon in which my termination would be discussed. Every manager in Macha’s position — flawed but talented team that didn’t overcome any of its weaknesses — has to hang his hat on the “we never quit” card.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: Orioles get the sweep. Jose Bautista hits his 47th, tying George Bell for the franchise record. To truly match Bell’s 1987 feat, however, Bautista will have to somehow manage to steal the MVP from someone more deserving. Ahem.

Red Sox 5, Mariners 1: The Sox sweep the M’s and are now six games back of the Yankees in the wild card race. I know it’s close to impossible — the Yankees could play .500 ball and the Sox would have to go 14-2 just to tie — but catching New York and snagging the wild card would be a bigger coup than the 2004 ALCS, wouldn’t it?

Royals 6, Athletics 3: Bruce Chen won his 10th and Wilson Betemit hit a grand slam to add to his fantastic season at the plate. “What are, ‘things Braves fans figured would happen circa 2002?'”  Correct! Pick again! “OK, I’ll take ‘Potent Potables for $500, Alex.”

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).