Hunter Pence providing no protection for Buster Posey

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The Giants acquired Hunter Pence to drive in runs hitting behind Buster Posey. And that’s exactly what he did in the regular season. In 59 games after coming over from the Phillies, Pence racked up 45 RBI. That pace would have led the NL had he maintained it for the full year.

Of course, it’s been a different story in the postseason. Pence hasn’t driven in a single run in eight games to date. He’s 5-for-31 with no extra-base hits and just one walk. In Wednesday’s loss, he hit with five men on base and advanced none of them. After Posey was intentionally walked to get to him in the third, he hit into a double play.

Pence also went 0-for-9 in his final three regular-season games, leaving him with a .125 average in his last 11 games overall.

Perhaps the Giants should have seen this coming. For all of the runs batted in, Pence didn’t exactly set the world afire after arriving in July. He hit just .219 with seven homers in 219 at-bats. His season OPS of .742 was his lowest in six years as a major leaguer.

Still, since the Giants decided not to activate Melky Cabrera, they’ve pretty much backed themselves into a corner with their outfield situation. They may replace Pence in the fifth spot behind Posey, but there aren’t any attractive options as replacements. The most likely option would involve moving Gregor Blanco up to the third spot and dropping Pablo Sandoval to fifth. Pence will remain in the starting lineup either way, but he may bat sixth or seventh in Thursday’s Game 4.

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).