Yankees come back on Blue Jays, AL East remains deadlocked

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After the Orioles closed out the Red Sox 6-3 to finish a three-game sweep Sunday, the Yankees completed their comeback on the Blue Jays, winning 9-6 to preserve the tie atop the AL East.

They say I can’t focus on the positive. Let’s give it a whirl:

Yankees – Definitely a great day for the offense after a sluggish start. The slumping Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. The first of those runs came when he hustled home on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano stayed hot, going 3-for-5 with two doubles to finish the four game series with 10 hits. He had 15 hits during the seven-game road trip, raising his average to .306.

Blue Jays – Henderson Alvarez turned in another successful start against the Yankees, allowing two runs in six innings. He pitched seven innings of three-run ball at Yankee Stadium 11 days ago. He ended up striking out 17 over 18 2/3 innings in his final three starts, an encouraging sign if there ever was one. He was at 62 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings through 28 starts.

Orioles – This team just never lets up. Nate McLouth, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis all homered today. Jim Thome had two hits and two RBI, and it’s looking more likely that he can be a key contributor in the postseason. Joe Saunders improved to 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for Baltimore, putting him in a position to start a game in the ALDS should the club advance.

Red Sox – The loss clinched a spot in the bottom 10 of the major league standings, meaning they won’t lose their first-round pick if they sign a top free agent this winter. They’ll have a top-10 pick for the first time since 1993 (when they got Trot Nixon seventh overall) and just the second time since 1967.

See… good news for everyone!

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).