Juan Pierre cannot be killed

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Just when it looked like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Juan Pierre grounded into two double plays for just the second time in his career Sunday.

He actually did have a hit in four at-bats against the A’s.  But he was promptly picked off first base afterwards.

Pierre is currently sitting at .242/.314/.268 for the season.  He hasn’t even attempted a steal in 12 days after opening the season by getting caught on eight of his first 14 attempts. His play in left field has also drawn some criticism, though it certainly has more to do with him having the worst arm of any major league outfielder than with any lack of effort.

In spite of it all, manager Ozzie Guillen is standing by his man.  As he told the Chicago Tribune:

“He’ll be there batting first again. I don’t worry about him because he’s a professional. He will battle. That’s not the first time he’s been through it. He’ll find a way.”

The White Sox do have alternatives, as I wrote in the Strike Zone on Saturday:

Jordan Danks, John’s younger brother, has been showing big-time power at Triple-A Charlotte and is up to .245/.341/.557 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 106 at-bats. Dayan Viciedo is playing left field for Charlotte most days and is hitting .304/.345/.486 in 138 at-bats. According to reports, Viciedo, who signed with the White Sox as a third baseman, hasn’t displayed much range in left field, so he’d be a clear downgrade from Pierre defensively. Danks would probably be an upgrade there, but he does have big issues making contact (33 strikeouts in 31 games) and I don’t think he’d hit for average in the majors. It still wouldn’t be a bad idea for the White Sox to give Danks a try, but they’ll probably give Pierre a couple of more weeks first.

Guillen certainly won’t be quick to make a switch.  But if the White Sox can get better and younger at the same time, they really need to go for it.

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).