Baseball announces Roberto Clemente Award nominees

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The Roberto Clemente Award goes to the Major Leaguer who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”  Tim Wakefield won it last year.  The 2011 nominees — one per team — were just announced. They are as follows:

Arizona Diamondbacks – Joe Saunders
Atlanta Braves – Tim Hudson
Baltimore Orioles – Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox – David Ortiz
Chicago Cubs – Ryan Dempster
Chicago White Sox – Juan Pierre
Cincinnati Reds – Jay Bruce
Cleveland Indians – Justin Masterson
Colorado Rockies – Troy Tulowitzki
Detroit Tigers – Justin Verlander
Florida Marlins – Gaby Sanchez
Houston Astros – Jason Bourgeois
Kansas City Royals – Billy Butler
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Torii Hunter
Los Angeles Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw
Milwaukee Brewers – LaTroy Hawkins
Minnesota Twins – Michael Cuddyer
New York Mets – Mike Pelfrey
New York Yankees – CC Sabathia
Oakland Athletics – Josh Willingham
Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Howard
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jeff Karstens
St. Louis Cardinals – Albert Pujols
San Diego Padres – Orlando Hudson
San Francisco Giants – Jeremy Affeldt
Seattle Mariners – Felix Hernandez
Tampa Bay Rays – James Shields
Texas Rangers – Michael Young
Toronto Blue Jays – Ricky Romero
Washington Nationals – Ian Desmond

While the award itself is cool, the part that confuses me about it all is that there is a fan voting aspect to all of this, with dedicated website for it and everything. I’m not sure how fans can properly gauge a player’s community involvement, and I’m not sure how overall popularity should have any bearing on this award. I suppose Major League Baseball just can’t help itself when it comes to throwing interactivity — and a chance for people to see the ads of a the award’s sponsors — into the mix.

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).