Phillies give up 13 runs to Royals, but it didn’t have to be this way

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I should start by writing about the intentional walk that went bad in the Royals’ rout of the Phillies on Friday.  With the Phillies up 4-2 and one out in the sixth, manager Charlie Manuel decided he’d rather have lefty Jeremy Horst face Alex Gordon with the bases loaded than Kyle Kendrick or a right-handed reliever face pinch-hitter Billy Butler with runners on second and third.

That, I think, is a defensible decision. Gordon is excellent, but not so much against lefties, while Horst limited lefties to a .170 average last season.

Gordon, of course, made it look bad, delivering a triple that put the Royals on top 5-4. Kansas City just kept piling on from there, finally winning the game 13-4.

But rather than focus on Manuel’s intentional walk, I’d rather point towards Ruben Amaro’s bullpen. Because it should be noted that five of the Royals’ runs today came against a pair of 35-year-old journeymen: Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes.

The Phillies finished last season loaded with talented, but unproven, young relievers: Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Josh Lindblom, Michael Schwimer. All were rather successful in the minors, some had shown flashes in the majors. All were 24-26 years old.

Right now, just one of those pitchers in on the major league roster: Aumont. He worked one scoreless inning in the Opening Day loss to the Braves and hasn’t been seen since. De Fratus and Diekman are in Triple-A. Lindblom was sent to Texas for Michael Young. Schwimer was given away to the Blue Jays because he threatened a grievance over how the Phillies handled an injury last year.

Instead of those intriguing younger arms, the Phillies are going with Durbin and Valdes. And it’s not because they needed the experience late in games. They’re paying through the nose for Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams to work the last two innings. It’s because Amaro, when it doubt, much prefers his veterans. Time will tell whether it pays off.

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).