The Pirates narrow down their list of potential managers

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With Eric Wedge gone and Bo Porter likely to be soon, the Pirates have narrowed down their list of potential managers to five: Dale Sveum, Jeff Banister, Ken Macha, John Gibbons and Carlos Tosca.

Gut reaction: Gibbons stands out on that list. Sveum is a career coach and minor league manager who, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to be taken at all seriously by the Brewers after his short stint as interim manager at the end of the 2008 season. Macha was far more interesting to them, but they just canned him. Banister is a longtime organizational solider with the Pirates, but if anyone thought of him as serious managerial timbre, wouldn’t he have gotten a look sometime in the last decade or so? Tosca was just hired by the Braves to be Fredi Gonzalez’s bench coach.

I always got the sense that Gibbons was a decent manager — he led the Blue Jays to a rare second place finish in the AL East one year — but there is the question about the multiple run-ins he had with players. On the one hand, that’s not very cool and it speaks to a difficult personality. On the other hand, each of the guys with whom Gibbons locked horns — Ted Lilly, Frank Thomas, Shea Hillenbrand — have had other difficulties and are thought of by at least some folks as difficult guys. Who knows. The team seemed to side with Gibbons on each of those occasions, but then again, the guy in charge of the team at the time — J.P. Ricciardi — has a reputation for being something less than a people person himself.

At the end of the day I keep coming back to the notion that the last thing the Pirates need is yet another amiable organizational guy, so maybe it’s worth taking a gamble on Gibbons. Maybe he can shake some people up. Maybe he’ll do much better setting a disciplined tone for young players like the Pirates have than he did with veterans on the Jays.

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).