Nothin’ like a parade! In Phoenix! In July! At noon!

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People keep asking me if I’m going to Phoenix for the All-Star Game.  I keep telling them no.

A number of reasons, really. For one thing, I’m not really a proper reporter, so I’m not sure what I’d do there except get in everyone’s way while I did that “what the heck am I doing here” Hunter S. Thompson thing that, while always good in theory, tends to just annoy everyone in practice.

Secondly, I was just in Phoenix for spring training, and while that lends itself to reporting too, a ten day boondoggle is a little different because you can grok the zeitgeist a little more than you can with a two-day kind of deal. And it’s easier to indulge the Thompson fantasies when you have more time and space to spread out.

There’s also the fact that I don’t find the All-Star Game particularly interesting, so I wouldn’t exactly be doing much besides grouching about things, and even a cynic like me has to acknowledge that that’s not the highest and best use of a press pass.

But mostly it’s the heat. I hate the heat, and I don’t want to be in 100 degree weather no matter how dry it is.  So forgive me if I watch this — straight from the press release factory at Major League Baseball — on TV:

Fans will have an opportunity to see their favorite 2011 MLB All-Stars up close on the streets of Phoenix and on television nationally on MLB Network as part of the seventh annual MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet.

On Tuesday, July 12, fans are invited to watch the procession of All-Stars to the 82nd Midsummer Classic as they make their way down an approximately 1,750 foot red carpet stretching 1/3 of a mile from the corner of 1stSt. and Jefferson St. down 4th St. and ending at Chase Field.

The event, which begins at 12:00 p.m. local time, is scheduled to feature all the Major League Baseball All-Stars riding in Chevrolet Silverados. Serving as Grand Marshal, MLB All-Star Ambassador and five-time MLB All-Star Luis Gonzalez will lead the parade through the streets.

Nothing like a parade at high noon in Phoenix in July.  I’ll be in my fortified compound sipping cool beverages.

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).