Homefield not the priority, as Yanks push back Hughes, CC

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The Yankees announced Friday that they’d start Dustin Moseley against the Red Sox on Sunday night and push back Phil Hughes until Wednesday. Also, going unannounced, but essentially confirmed by the big left-hander himself, is that CC Sabathia will make just one start next week, that coming Friday against Boston.
The Sabathia decision was a given, and it’s also no surprise that Hughes will make just one more start this season. The Yankees see a bigger advantage in getting their starters some extra rest and setting up their rotation for the postseason than in receiving an extra game at home during the ALDS and potentially the ALCS.
If the Yankees fail to claim the AL East, then they’d be guaranteed to open each postseason series on the road, even if they have a better record than the AL Central and AL West champs. The NL pennant winner is already guaranteed homefield advantage in the World Series by virtue of the All-Star Game victory.
The AL’s top three Cy Young contenders all pitched Thursday, putting them in position to make starts Tuesday and Sunday of next week if necessary. However, it’s not likely that any will do so. The Rays will likely back off David Price as well. Felix Hernandez is expected to start Tuesday and could go again Sunday, but the Mariners will probably choose to protect their ace instead.
Hughes is up to 169 1/3 innings for the season after beating the Rays on Tuesday. The Yankees have tried to be careful with him throughout the second half, and he’ll finish up having made just four starts during the month of September.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.