Mike Matheny wants to improve catcher safety

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Throughout his playing career spanning 1994-2006, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was known as one of the toughest players in the game, hearkening back to the older days of baseball. He suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 concussions, according to Anthony Castrovince. If anyone would be against changing MLB’s rules to favor a “softer” game, it would be Matheny.

Surprisingly, Matheny does want MLB’s rules regarding home plate collisions changed.

“I understand old-school, and I consider myself an old-school player, as far as the way I go out and the way I was taught the game,” Matheny said. “[But] I just don’t see the sense in it.”

The growing sentiment for change comes as a result of an ugly injury Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered in May 2011 when Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided with him at home plate. Posey suffered a fractured leg and torn ligaments, ending his season. Others, including Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, have been hit hard since.

Major League Baseball, as much a business as it is a game, suffers when star players like Posey are unable to play. Thus, it would seem to be in its best interest to establish rules that would eliminate superfluous, risky plays like home plate collisions. If change is to be made, however, the “tough guy” culture must be perforated.

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations and also a former catcher, has opposed such change. Indians manager Terry Francona is also a proponent of the status quo, and more are likely to come out as the debate rages on. The players, who often suffer through injuries and use terms such as “man up”, are just as likely to fight against change, especially if it means having to work to change playing habits.

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).