Erick Aybar settled way too cheap

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More power to him if Erick Aybar loves Southern California and didn’t want to play anywhere else. He still should have done better than $35 million for four years in his new extension with the Angels.

$8.75 million per year is less than Julio Lugo got in his four-year deal with the Red Sox six years ago. It’s less than a well past his prime Edgar Renteria got from the Giants in a two-year deal for 2009-10. It’s barely more than Cristian Guzman earned in 2009-10.

And in case no one has noticed, the price tags have generally gone up since then. Aybar’s only rival at shortstop in free agency this winter would have been Stephen Drew, and at this point, there’s no telling if Drew is going to be a viable long-term shortstop after last year’s ankle injury. It’s possible no other starting shortstops will hit free agency this winter: Jhonny Peralta’s option is almost certain to be picked up by the Tigers, and Jason Bartlett and Alex Gonzalez both have 2013 options that figure to vest if they stay healthy.

Aybar may not be thought of as a star, but he certainly ranks among the game’s top 10 shortstops with his plus glove and .695 career OPS. Hitting free agency at age 29, he probably would have gotten $50 million for five years as a minimum. Instead, he settled for $35 million and didn’t even get no-trade protection in the bargain. Angels fans should be thrilled.

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).