Vaunted bullpen trio lets A’s down in loss to Tigers

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Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined to pitch nine scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in the process, in the series sweep of the Rangers last week. In today’s Game 2 loss to the Tigers, the trio gave up four runs — two earned — and six hits in 2 2/3 innings of work.

What was a 2-1 Oakland lead when Doolittle entered to start the bottom of the seventh turned into a 5-4 loss after Don Kelly’s sac fly in the ninth.

All three relievers allowed two hits. Doolittle still would have escaped his inning clean if not for Coco Crisp’s drop of Miguel Cabrera’s fly to shallow center. It was ruled an error, so both runs Doolittle allowed were unearned. Still, he took a blown save, as did Cook after his wild pitch allowed the tying run in the eighth. Balfour suffered the loss in the ninth after entering a 4-4 game.

To see all three get negative results in the same game is simply incredible. Doolittle took a loss or a blown save just twice in 44 regular-season appearances this year. Balfour was even better, with three such appearances in 75 trips to the mound. Cook took a loss and/or a blown save seven times in 71 appearances.

Now, sure, many of those appearances came in situations in which a loss or a blown save was never in play. And most of them didn’t come against offenses as good as Detroit’s. Still, for all three to fail back-to-back-to-back, well, perhaps there is a little something different to this thing they call postseason baseball.

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).