Offense’s disappearing act leaves Giants on cusp of elimination

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The stunning thing about the Giants’ success this year was the way the offense fueled the team in the second half, even with All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera gone due to suspension.

The Giants ranked third in the NL with 380 runs scored in the second half. Only the Brewers (392) and Nationals (383) were better, and no other team was within 20 runs of San Francisco.

The pitching wasn’t bad either, ranking sixth with 303 runs allowed during the same span. However, considering that AT&T played as a very good pitcher’s park this year, the offense was even better than the raw run total suggests, while the pitching wasn’t quite as good.

Unfortunately, through two games against the Reds, the Giants haven’t gotten a lot of hitting or pitching. Still, it’s the offense that’s been especially disappointing, particularly after the Giants caught a break in Game 1 when Johnny Cueto left in the first. Completely unable to capitalize, the Giants scored just two runs then and were later shut out by Bronson Arroyo and company on Sunday.

Summer acquisition Hunter Pence has been the biggest culprit, racking up dreadful at-bats behind Buster Posey in the order. He’s 0-for-8 so far. The lineup’s first three hitters — Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval — are a combined 3-for-26.

Changes seem unlikely. The two most vulnerable players in the Giants’ order — first baseman Brandon Belt and left fielder Gregor Blanco — have actually looked the best of anyone besides Posey. Belt walked twice Saturday and had the only hit off Arroyo on Sunday. Blanco was 2-for-3 with a walk Saturday. No one else is likely to suddenly take a seat.

The Giants are probably doomed now, but perhaps the change of scenery to Cincinnati will do the team some good. The Giants hit 31 homers and averaged 3.8 runs per game at home this year, compared to 72 homers and 5.1 runs per game on the road.

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).