Livan Hernandez to spend September as coach/pinch-hitter

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Preferring to look at the team’s younger pitchers down the stretch, the Nationals informed Livan Hernandez today that he’d be removed from the rotation following his start Sunday against the Mets.

According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, manager Davey Johnson indicated that Hernandez would become a mentor/coach the rest of the way.  He won’t pitch out of the bullpen, but he will be available to serve as a pinch-hitter if needed.

The guess here is that Hernandez wasn’t keen to the idea of working as a reliever.  He’s made just one appearance out of the pen in his career and that was his very first appearance for the Marlins way back in 1996.  He’s made 473 consecutive starts since.

Hernandez has a pretty respectable 4.29 ERA in 28 starts this year, though he is at 4.99 since the All-Star break.  One wonders if he might be part of a rare September trade should some team approach the Nationals.  Hernandez wouldn’t be eligible to pitch in the postseason, but he’d make sense as an injury replacement: he could certainly eat up a few starts that might otherwise go to inexperienced pitchers.

With Hernandez out of the mix, it looks like the Nationals will use a rotation of John Lannan, Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang and Tom Milone the rest of the way.

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).