Jeff Francoeur is on the board!

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And Robin Ventura still seems out of his element.

Jeff Francoeur finally hit his first homer Sunday, taking Nate Jones deep in the eighth inning as part of the Royals’ 9-1 win over the White Sox.

The homer came in his 124th at-bat of the season. Francoeur last year hit 20 homers in 601 at-bats.

Francoeur is also without a steal this season after finishing with 22 in 2011.

But that’s about all I have to write about Francoeur at the moment. Let’sdiscuss Robin Ventura’s decision-making with the White Sox down 3-1 in the ninth inning of the contest.

Rookie reliever Addison Reed entered today’s game with a .143 average against this season. However, after a walk and a double to open the ninth, Robin Ventura had Reed intentionally walk Jarrod Dyson to load the bases with no outs. And then, after a run-scoring wild pitch and a strikeout, Ventura had Reed issue another intentional walk, this one to Alex Gordon. Reed, still struggling with his control, went on to hit Billy Butler to force in a run and then gave up an RBI single to Francoeur before being pulled. He ended up being charged with six runs.

If you ask me, this is just another case of Ventura looking overmatched from the dugout. Reed hadn’t allowed a run all season and he appears well on his to establishing himself as one of the league’s top strikeout relievers, yet Ventura kept taking away his margin for error by loading the bases. Reed clearly wasn’t at his best today, so maybe he would have given up those runs regardless. Still, Ventura should have trusted his stuff: Reed was a much better bet to get out of the inning with strikeouts (of which he had 26 in 17 1/3 innings as a major leaguer) than he was with a double play (of which he had zero in 17 1/3 innings as a major leaguer).

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.