Cleveland has fallen out of first place by going 9-16 this month and now the Indians will likely be without Shin-Soo Choo until September.
Choo suffered a broken left thumb when he was hit by a Jonathan Sanchez pitch Friday and underwent surgery today, with Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reporting that the right fielder is expected to miss 8-10 weeks.
Eight weeks from now would have him returning in late August, so any kind of setback or slower than expected recovery could lead to Choo missing the remainder of the season. And of course even if he returns at the optimistic end of that timetable there’s no guarantee Choo will fare well with a surgically repaired thumb, particularly since he was hitting just .244 with a .687 OPS in 72 games before the plunking.
Choo hit .302 with an .897 OPS in his first three seasons in Cleveland, averaging 24 homers and 20 steals per 160 games along with standout defense in right field to stake his claim as one of baseball’s most underrated all-around players. He’ll likely be replaced by a platoon of Travis Buck and Austin Kearns.
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.