Indians manager looking to improve at first and third next year

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The Indians recalled Matt LaPorta from Triple-A Columbus today, but it sounds like this could be his last chance to impress the brass in Cleveland.

Talking to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, manager Manny Acta said he needs better production from the infield corners next season:

“First and third base are positions where we should be looking into improving for next year, whether that’s within or from the outside.”

He’s absolutely right, of course.  Indians first basemen are 12th in the AL with a .748 OPS this year, while the team’s third basemen are 10th at .675.

The hope was that Lonnie Chisenhall would be an offensive upgrade from Jack Hannahan after getting the call to take over at the hot corner at the end of June, but the 22-year-old has hit just .226/.260/.377 in 146 at-bats to date, suggesting that he might need a little more Triple-A time next year.

The 26-year-old LaPorta has been a disappointment yet again, hitting .238/.289/.404 in 319 at-bats, and is likely running out of chances.  The Indians have gotten solid play from Carlos Santana at first base, but the team doesn’t want to commit to him there just yet.  It sounds like he’ll continue to get the majority of his starts at catcher again next season.

The Indians probably won’t want to spend a lot of money to address either position this winter, but they could go hunting for cheap veterans to hold down the fort.  Former Indians Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa could be couple of inexpensive possibilities.

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).