Injury-plagued Giants use a wild lineup

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It’s safe to say the defending world champs weren’t projecting this as a starting lineup a few months ago:

CF Cody Ross
2B Mike Fontenot
1B Pablo Sandoval
LF Aubrey Huff
RF Brandon Belt
SS Orlando Cabrera
3B Miguel Tejada
C Chris Stewart

For the record, this is the Giants’ 122nd game of the season.  The eight players in the Giants’ lineup tonight have started at those positions a grand total of 98 times this year.

Ross – 3
Fontenot – 8
Sandoval – 4
Huff – 1
Belt – 0
Cabrera – 16
Tejada – 37
Stewart – 29

Only Stewart and Tejada are playing at their most common positions.  Tejada actually had started 37 games at both third base and shortstop, but he had played more innings at third.

What made the odd lineup even odder is that the Giants originally had Huff in right field and Belt in left before switching the two.  Huff had played right in 13 of his 14 outfield starts this season, and all three of Belt’s previous outfield starts had come in left.

So, why are we seeing this?  Not only did Carlos Beltran go on the disabled list Tuesday, but the Giants have also had to send Nate Schierholtz (foot) and Jeff Keppinger (wrist) for tests that will help determine how much time they’ll miss.  Finally, Aaron Rowand is nursing a strained intercostal muscle.

At least the Giants have the right starter on the mound tonight: Jonathan Sanchez loves those walks and strikeouts, so there shouldn’t be a whole bunch of balls is play.  He can go as long as he wants, too: with just two players on the bench in Mark DeRosa and Eli Whiteside, the Giants don’t figure to do any pinch-hitting.

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).