Tossup Alert: The AL MVP to be announced at 2pm Eastern

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Today the BBWAA will give out the only award that looks to have any kind of intrigue or potential controversy to it: AL MVP.

This year’s award throws a couple of time-tested argument starters out there: should a pitcher win the MVP?  Should the MVP winner come from a team that didn’t go anywhere? Is year-long excellence somehow less impressive for MVP purposes than a guy who has a late dominant surge that carries a team into the playoffs?  And what if that late surge couldn’t quite do it because all of that guy’s teammates were eating fried chicken and drinking beer?

Justin Verlander, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury all fall into that matrix somewhere.  I have no freaking clue how it will break down.  My gut tells me that Verlander will get it. Why? Because I imagine that when the Sox crapped out on the last day of the season Ellsbury lost support and that those people — storyline voters, I’ll call them, who wanted to give it to him on the theory that he was carrying Boston into the playoffs — will defect to Verlander in greater numbers than Bautista.

And yes, that’s not far removed from me just pulling it all out of my butt. Cut me some slack. I’m a little tired this morning.

One thing I’m more sure about:  anyone who throws a fit about the MVP voting this year is just trying to start a fight because they’re bored. It’s OK, I do that all the time, but it’s hard to see oodles of daylight between these candidates in my view. I’d probably vote for Bautista, and I’ll get a little miffed if Verlander doesn’t win due to people simply leaving him off their ballots entirely, but there just doesn’t seem to be any room to call whatever results we get an atrocity.

Adjust your rage accordingly.

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).