The Winter Meetings are coming

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As we plow into the offseason, it’s a good time to remember that the biggest hot stove event is the Winter Meetings. They’re going to be in Dallas this year from December 5-8, though most people show up on Sunday the 4th.

It’s a nutso kind of thing, whether you’re actually on-site or whether you’re just glued to your computer watching the deals go down.  And they do go down sort of whenever. Last year one of the big deals — I think the Jayson Werth signing, but it’s all a blur — happened as everyone was still trying to find their media credentials on Sunday afternoon. The Carl Crawford signing broke at about 11pm one evening. Which taught me a very important lesson: if Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe is walking with purpose toward the media room at 11pm, follow him rather than continuing on to the bar for overpriced Knob Creek.

Anyway, I’ll be there again this year, doing my best not to get arrested, evicted, punched or embarrassed (I promise I’ll avoid at least two of those).  If you ever had any notions of going, Maury has a comprehensive primer and information post over at Biz of Baseball that tells you everything you need to know.

Here’s hoping Yu Darvish is posted but not yet signed by the time the Meetings go down. I miss my 350 friends in the Japanese sporting press and I want to see the entirety of their tenacious power unleashed.

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).