Report: Pirates expected to take Gerrit Cole with No. 1 pick

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As opposed to the past two years, there isn’t an obvious No. 1 pick in Monday’s First-Year Player Draft. This has led to spirited debate about who the Pirates may select. Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole and Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen have been mentioned most frequently in the past few weeks, but it appears that the Pirates have a made a decision.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is hearing that the Pirates will select Gerrit Cole with the first pick in Monday’s draft.

Cole, 20, arguably has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the draft. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Cole can touch 100 mph with his heater and also throws a plus-changeup. He was previously selected by the Yankees with the No. 28 pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but decided to attend UCLA.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported this morning that other teams are anticipating that the Mariners will take a position player with the No. 2 pick. Anthony Rendon would seem to be the favorite, though high school outfielder Bubba Starling is another possibility.

By the way, if you are looking for some in-depth draft insight, check out this piece by Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld.

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).