Mike Maroth retires

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Back when I practiced law, there was a partner who lost a big case. Millions of dollars at stake, and his client got creamed.  We all wanted to taunt him about it afterward, but he simply said “gentlemen, it takes one hell of a lawyer to lose a case as big as that.” We thought he was joking around, but there’s real truth there: if you’re simply no good, no one is ever going to give you the chance to fail that big.

Pitching can be like that.  If you stink, you’re gone.  But it takes a hell of a pitcher to lose a lot of games.  Mike Maroth was like that. He was the last pitcher to lose 20 games in a season when he lost 21 for the 2003 Tigers.  Yes, I know that the Tigers roster was way thin that year and someone had to pitch, but Maroth was good enough, healthy enough, and professional enough that Alan Trammell felt OK sending him out there day after day after day, where he eventually locked up loss number 21.

I wouldn’t normally make a point to post about a guy like Mike Maroth retiring, but baseball isn’t just about excellence. It’s about persistence too, and it’s about character. Mike Maroth showed both of those things in 2003. And after that dubious notoriety, he managed to put together a couple of good seasons, including one for a pennant winner in 2006. He was left off the postseason roster that year. He probably didn’t like that much, but I have this feeling that he got OK with it eventually. He’d been through worse on a baseball diamond.

Good luck with whatever you do, Mike.

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).