Matt Wieters headlines 2011 class of “Fielding Bible Awards”

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It’s tough to take the Gold Glove awards too seriously these days. Fortunately we also have the Fielding Bible Awards around to recognize the best defensive players at each position.

For those unfamiliar, the Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a 10-person panel of experts, including Bill James, Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, John Dewan and the Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) scouting team. This is the sixth edition of the awards, which recognizes players from both leagues.

Below are your 2011 winners:

C – Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B – Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2B – Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
3B – Adrian Beltre, Rangers
LF – Brett Gardner, Yankees
CF – Austin Jackson, Tigers
RF – Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
P – Mark Buehrle, White Sox

Hard to find much to complain about here, as all are considered elite defenders. The biggest news here is that Wieters supplants Yadier Molina, who won the previous four Fielding Bible awards at catcher. Mark Buehrle takes the prize for a third straight year while Troy Tulowitzki and Brett Gardner also repeat at their respective positions.

By the way, we won’t have to wait too long to find out who the Gold Glove winners are. While MLB has traditionally announced them via press release, ESPN2 will unveil the winners for each league with a live one-hour telecast tomorrow night at 10 p.m. ET. Finalists for each position were announced earlier today, presumably in an effort to increase the drama, which is yet another first. Of note, last year’s Gold Glove award winner Derek Jeter is not among the finalists for shortstop in the American League while 2011 Fielding Bible award winners Albert Pujols and Justin Upton were also left off.

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).