Giants’ catcher switch a complete bust for Bruce Bochy

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The real question is why Hector Sanchez ever started catching Tim Lincecum in the first place this year.

Yeah, Lincecum got off to an awful start this year with Buster Posey catching him. But who made that about Posey? Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner certainly didn’t have any problem with Posey. And Lincecum was extremely successful throwing to Posey in 2011, amassing a 1.55 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.

If Lincecum has a legitimate problem with Posey — and there’s been speculation to that effect — he needs to get over it. And it’s part of Bruce Bochy’s job to make sure that happens.

Lincecum did have some early success throwing to Sanchez this year, but in the end, it really didn’t matter much. There was an ERA difference: Lincecum had a 4.87 ERA working with Sanchez and a 5.46 ERA working with Posey, but nothing really backed that up. The league hit .255/.341/.414 against Lincecum with Sanchez catching and .258/.340/.429 against him with Posey catching. In pretty much the same number of innings, baserunners were 18-for-20 stealing against Lincecum-Sanchez and 6-for-6 against Lincecum-Posey.

Plus, Lincecum did just great in relief throwing to Posey in the postseason, pitching four scoreless innings in two appearances.

But there was Sanchez behind the plate for Thursday’s Game 4 against the Cardinals. It did Lincecum no good, as he gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings to take a loss, and Sanchez ended up going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate. He also dropped a relay on a play at the plate in the fifth, opening the door for a two-run inning. He did manage to throw out a would-be basestealer, but that was the only highlight of the night.

This should put an end to the foolishness, anyway. If the Giants do come back and win the NLCS, one imagines that Posey will be the choice to catch Lincecum in the World Series. And if they don’t, the Giants need to work out whatever differences Lincecum and Posey have, as this arrangement simply can’t be allowed to linger into 2013.

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).