Michael Young expects to be “better than ever” at third base

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Stifle your laughter. Phillies third baseman Michael Young is very confident about his return to the hot corner, reports MLB.com’s Paul Hagen:

Can Young, at age 36, play third better than he ever has before?

“I expect to,” he said. “Preparation is the key to anything and I feel like I’m prepared and working hard, and I want to keep doing that during the season. I feel comfortable now, but there is always work to be done. I know I haven’t been at third in a while, but I do know what it takes to play third base at a high level and I have definite goals in my head about the type of third base I intend to play. I’m going to keep working hard until I get there.”

He’s keeping those goals to himself, and they’re not necessarily numerical.

“It’s the way I feel over there. The third base I know I can play. I don’t feel like I’ve played it to this point in my career. I’ve worked at it and worked at it, but at the same time you need the reps. A lot of things are starting to click over there that I was kind of searching for a little bit earlier. This is a classic example of learning by doing,” he said.

Young’s mediocre defense has been the inspiration behind such legendary animated .gifs as this and this (and probably this, too). If you put any stock in Ultimate Zone Rating, he has been the third-worst-fielding third baseman in baseball since 2009. Overall, he was the second-least-valuable player in the big leagues last season. But he has grit, leadership, and passion for the game, which is what really matters when your team is hovering around .500.

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).