Carlos Zambrano is ready for his closeup

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Carlos Zambrano saw his first official game action as a member of the Phillies organization yesterday, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout ball at high Single-A Clearwater.

Zambrano had two strikeouts and two walks, so he wasn’t exactly dominant, but afterward the 31-year-old right-hander told David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News that he thinks the Phillies ought to call him up right now:

I’m ready. They are in control. My agent has been in touch with Mr. Ruben [Amaro] and we’ll see what happens. I’m ready. I’m ready to help this team. … I was at my house doing nothing and now I have a job with one of the best teams in baseball, a team with good fans, a team that is competing every year. I like that. I like the chemistry. I like the system. I thank God that I’m here.

I’ll let Zambrano slide on the whole “one of the best teams in baseball” thing, because technically at 25-27 the Phillies are one of the best 20 or so teams in baseball.

Murphy writes that an immediate call-up is unlikely, in part because Zambrano threw just 81 pitches yesterday and in part because the Phillies need to decide which options they like best at the back of the rotation. And of course the fact that Zambrano hasn’t actually pitched well in two years is also part of the decision-making process.

Zambrano’s minor-league contract has a July 1 opt-out clause if he’s not in the majors, but the way he’s talking already it’s hard to believe he’ll be a happy campy still pitching in the minors by then.

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).