Endy Chavez plays his way into bigger role with Rangers

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Endy Chavez missed all of last season following knee surgery and began this year at Triple-A, but the 33-year-old outfielder has hit .326 in 43 games since joining the Rangers in mid-May and manager Ron Washington is ready to give him an expanded role.

Chavez is a left-handed hitter and has faced almost exclusively right-handed pitchers, but with platoon partner Craig Gentry injured Washington sees no problem letting Chavez face lefties too, telling Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:

Endy don’t care. When I got two guys that I feel is quality like Endy and Gentry, one against a lefty and one against a righty, it gives me a chance to get both of them out there. But Endy don’t care.

And you know what? He’s right. Almost all left-handed hitters are less productive against left-handed pitchers and that might be true of Chavez if given a long enough sample of playing time. However, he’s hitting .500 off lefties in limited action this year and is a career .291 hitter with a .703 OPS versus lefties compared to .269 with a .686 OPS versus righties. Of course, his career totals versus lefties consists of just 521 plate appearances, so it’s hardly definitive proof that Chavez handles them better than righties.

And while the handedness of the pitchers he’s allowed to face matters, the bigger question for the Rangers is whether Chavez will turn back into the same guy who hit just .274 with a .664 OPS in the three seasons preceding his knee injury. Washington is riding the hot hand right now, but if Chavez reverts back to his career norms the Rangers might not be so keen about playing him against lefties or righties.

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).