There has been some ugly baseball played in this Pirates-Mets series, and today may have been the ugliest.
The Pirates had a 7-0 lead after three innings. The Mets’ comeback began conventionally enough with a three-run homer by Carlos Beltran. Then things got smaller and slightly unconventional in the sixth, with New York scoring runs on a couple of singles and one on a passed ball. It was tied 7-7 after six.
In the eighth inning it got a lot more nutty: Ronny Paulino led off with a single and was pinch-run for by Willie Harris. Chris Capuano was then called on to pinch hit, which obviously meant a bunt. He squared to bunt, and after a foul ball, Pirates pitcher Jose Veras was called for a balk, allowing Harris to advance to second.
Because Terry Collins doesn’t take in Mets games from a barcalounger like Jerry Manuel used to, he realized that the situation had changed and that a bunt was no longer called for given that there was a runner in scoring position and one out. He pulled Capuano for Josh Thole, who drew a walk. Meanwhile, Harris had reached on a wild pitch and Ruben Tejada plated him with a sac fly. Then it became a parade of walks, with Daniel Murphy, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran all getting free passes, leading to one more run. At that point it’s 9-7 and the game is pretty much sealed.
That was the Mets biggest comeback in 11 years and their second biggest comeback of all time. Credit should go to Terry Collins, certainly, and to Beltran for that big blast.
The rest of it though? Boy, Pirates, that was exactly the kind of baseball that the Mets got yelled at for playing yesterday. Just bad, bad stuff.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.