Mike Piazza denies steroid use in excerpts from new book

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We already knew that Mike Piazza was going to deny steroid use in his new book, “Long Shot,” which is set to be released next week, but now we have some actual excerpts to chew on. Here’s a preview, courtesy of David Waldstein of the New York Times.

“It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,” Piazza says in the book. “I didn’t.”

He admits to using androstenedione as part of a supplement pack until the outcry over Mark McGwire’s use of it forced him to “phase it out.” Baseball later banned the substance.

He also writes that he briefly experimented with amphetamines until they were banned in 2006. And he describes hearing about human growth hormone, doing some research and asking the Mets’ former trainer, Fred Hina, if teams would start distributing it, unaware that it was a banned substance. According to the book, Hina said he would look into it and a day or two later told Piazza it was not a good idea.

While some speculated that the release of the book was delayed until after the Hall of Fame vote because of possible revelations regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Piazza said it was pushed back because he didn’t want it to look like he was campaigning. So much for the conspiracy theorists.

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the vote last month in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, less than the 75 percent required for enshrinement in Cooperstown. In his first public comments since the vote, Piazza expressed disappointment in missing the cut.

“I won’t deny there is some disappointment, but I understand it’s a process,” he said in the interview, which marked his first public comments since the Hall of Fame vote was announced Jan. 9. “All things considered, I got over 50 percent, and a lot of people were very supportive. I mean, there’s what, almost 600 voters? That’s a lot. I’m on my homeowners board. I know how hard it is to get six people on the same page, let alone 600.”

Piazza, a 12-time All-Star, produced a .308/.377/.545 lifetime batting line and a .922 career OPS over 16 seasons between the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics. He holds the all-time record for home runs hit by a catcher.

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).