Red Sox play spoiler; Yankees, Orioles tied again

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Boston’s two remaining stars did their thing Tuesday, and the AL East is again all knotted at the top.

With the Orioles having already topped the Rays 9-2, the Red Sox got a game-winning single from Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees 4-3.

Ellsbury ended up 4-for-5 on his 29th birthday, and Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI for Boston.

The Yankees managed to work seven walks against Red Sox starter Jon Lester, but they settled for three runs, even though they had two on with none out in the first, third and sixth innings.

The game got freaky in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan Kalish started the frame with an ugly popup bunt single that fell in over the head of the pitcher but in front of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Pedro Ciriaco then tried to sacrifice him along, only to reach first when catcher Russell Martin mishandled the bunt a foot in front of home plate (it almost certainly would have rolled foul given the backspin on the ball).

Mike Aviles then became the third straight Red Sox hitter to attempt a bunt, only to miss on two stabs. He struck out swinging. That was it for Hiroki Kuroda. Boone Logan came in and induced a grounder to the right side from Ellsbury, but he didn’t bother covering first because he thought Cano would play it, not the first baseman. He was wrong, and the Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out. Logan was pulled, but Joba Chamberlain came in from there and retired Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia to preserve a 3-3 tie.

The Yankees were stifled by the Red Sox pen from there. They finished with just six hits on the night, compared to 12 for Boston. David Robertson took his seventh loss when he gave up Ellsbury’s hit in the ninth.

Baltimore’s win was much easier than Boston’s. The Orioles scored off all five Rays pitchers on the night and handed rookie Matt Moore his 10th loss. J.J. Hardy was the star, going 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBI. Still, it may have been a costly loss for Baltimore, as starter Jason Hammel reinjured his knee in the fourth inning, forcing him to leave the game.

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).