Nationals pursue Prince Fielder for first base

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While the Nationals have long maintained that Adam LaRoche would reclaim the first-base job in 2012, they’ve always been looked at as potential bidders for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder anyway. From Ken Rosenthal comes word that the Nationals have indeed engaged in talks with Fielder, but that those talks hit a roadblock today.

Fielder, coming off a third-place finish in the NL MVP balloting, is believed to be looking for something like $200 million over eight years on the open market. It’s a price the Nationals could conceivably pay for an established franchise player to go along with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as the faces of the team’s future. Rosenthal, though, suggests that the Nationals may soon move on to Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes instead.

Cespedes, whose price tag figures to eclipse $50 million, would be an even bigger gamble for the Nationals than for other teams, because the Nats would need him to stay in center and play in between Harper and Jayson Werth in their 2013 outfield. Many suitors view Cespedes as a better option in right field.

Fielder appears to have only a limited number of suitors at the moment, so the Nationals may be better off lingering in the weeds and seeing if his price tag tumbles a bit. It’d be one thing to pay the portly slugger $25 million per year; it’s going to seven or eight years on such a deal that would make it terribly risky.

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).