Royals’ prospect Mike Moustakas may skip winter ball

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It’s a painfully slow day news-wise, so while we patiently wait for Game 6 of the NLCS between the Giants and Phillies to begin, I thought I’d use this opportunity to bring you up to speed on a position prospect we’ll probably be hearing a lot about next season.

Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that the club is considering having top prospect third baseman Mike Moustakas skip playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

“When we made that decision (to send Moustakas to winter ball) in July,” Picollo said, “it was to see whether he can handle better pitching. But I saw him in the last week of the season in Omaha, and he faced a soft lefty, a hard-throwing lefty, a power righty, guys pitching backward – and he handled all of it.

“So the things we wanted to see him do in the Dominican, he’s already done them. Some guys still want him to go. We’re still discussing it.”

Moustakas, 22, batted .322/.369/.630 with 36 home runs and 124 RBI between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha this season before he joined team USA for the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Baseball America recently ranked him as the top prospect in the Texas League for the 2010 season and the No. 2 prospect in the Pacific Coast League. Buster Posey, who played in 47 games with Triple-A Fresno before getting called up to the majors, ranked No. 1 in the PCL.

So, from Picollo’s comments, it sure sounds like Moustakas has nothing left to prove against minor league pitching, right? Probably not, but like Giants GM Brian Sabean did with Posey earlier this spring, look for the Royals to think of some sort of excuse before conveniently calling him up right around Memorial Day next season.

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).