It’s time to play “Let’s Jerk Alex Gordon Around!”

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So, you’re the Royals, longtime laughing stock of the AL. Your 2011 season starts with some definite promise, but a losing streak inevitably follows. Everyone in baseball knows you’re not going anywhere anyway. The goal for this season all along should have been to figure out what pieces were worth keeping around as baseball’s best collection of prospects starts to bust through in 2012.

One of those pieces is named Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in the 2005 draft, he’s been a pretty massive bust, particularly during injury-filled seasons in 2009 and 2010. Yet his 2011 starts in extremely encouraging fashion. Thanks to last year’s position switch, he’s no longer looking like a liability with the glove. A hot spring got him moved up in the order, and he’s kept it going in the regular season, hitting .351/.402/.521 with 15 RBI and 19 runs scored in 22 games.

So, what do you do? Leave well enough alone, of course. Gordon is 27. This is his last chance in Kansas City; if he fails again, he certainly won’t be around in 2012. He seems to have settled in very nicely in left field. In fact, with five assists in 22 games, he was making a real difference with his glove.

Ned Yost, though, has different ideas. With the Royals having lost seven of nine, he’s benched Kila Ka’aihue and shifted Gordon to first base tonight. It’s not necessarily a long-time move, but if the idea was to sit Ka’aihue for just a day, then there’d certainly be no point in moving Gordon in from the outfield.

Nope, it looks like Gordon could log some serious time at first base over the next few weeks. And that’s just crazy, since the Royals have maybe the game’s best first base prospect, Eric Hosmer, battering down the door. Hosmer is hitting .380/.458/.479 in 19 games for Triple-A Omaha. If not for the super-two arbitration rules, the Royals may well have called him up tonight and said goodbye to Ka’aihue. For financial reasons, though, it makes a lot of sense to leave Hosmer in the minors until June 1, and that’s what the Royals are likely to do.

And that’s why this is flat-out stupid. If the Royals were going to switch Gordon permanently to first base, that’d be understandable. But to have him alternate between two positions is foolish. And it’s not like Hosmer is their only alternative to Ka’aihue. They can put Billy Butler back at first base whenever they like, they can try Wilson Betemit there or they can call up another minor leaguer, Clint Robinson, who has even better numbers than Hosmer but is four years older and has no real concerns about arbitration/free agency eligibility.

Instead, they’ve chosen to jerk Gordon around, as they’ve done so many times before. Maybe no other organization would have turned him into a superstar, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have contributed more had he been drafted by another team six years ago.

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).