Chad Cordero touches 91 mph in return appearance

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Back on a big-league mound after a nearly two-year absence, Chad Cordero gave up a home run but retired three of the four Mariners he faced in his Angels debut Monday.

Both MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby and USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale had pieces on him and his trials today.

Cordero’s minor league deal, signed earlier this month, didn’t include an invitation to major league camp, but he was brought over to get an inning in today with the Angels’ top hurlers not pitching yet.

“He was like 40 pounds lighter, so I didn’t recognize him,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But once he got on the mound, you could tell it was him.”

Cordero pitched at 89-91 mph today, said GM Jerry DiPoto. That’s actually right where he was before hurting his shoulder in 2008; according to Fangraphs data, his average fastball ranged between 89 and 90 mph every year from 2003-07.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old Cordero isn’t a candidate to make the Angels out of spring training, but he hopes to contribute later on this season.

“This reminds me how much I missed it,” Cordero told Nightengale. “I hated it when I was released. If I have to pitch in A-ball, Double-A to get here, I’ll do it. I’ll be a mop-up guy if I have to. I want to be here because I love this game so much.”

Cordero, a 2003 first-round pick, saved 47 games for the Nationals as a 23-year-old in 2005. He racked up 128 saves in total before turning 26. However, he’s made just 15 appearances since 2008 (six then, nine in 2010) because of shoulder issues. He’s also making his way back from a tragedy after losing his 11-month-old to sudden infant death syndrome in 2010.

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).