2013 MLB Draft: Astros take Mark Appel first overall

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Last year, the Astros decided they weren’t interested in meeting Mark Appel’s bonus demands and selected Carlos Correa first overall. Given a do over after finishing with the worst record in baseball once again, the Astros selected Appel, a right-hander from Stanford, first overall in Thursday’s draft.

Appel ended up going eighth overall to the Pirates last year and went back to Stanford for his Senior season after Pittsburgh failed to sign him. It was a risky move, but it worked out as well as could be hoped, as Appel stayed healthy and went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and a 130/23 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 innings.

The Astros will have leverage in dealing with Appel, given that he can’t go back to school this time. His slot value is $7.79 million, but the Astros could get him for a bit less, giving them more flexibility with later picks. It’s hard to imagine Appel could risk going back into next year’s draft, which is considered significantly stronger than this one. It’s highly unlikely that he’d go first again.

Appel throws in the mid-90s and possesses both a slider and a changeup. He’s certainly not a slamdunk No. 1 pick like Stephen Strasburg before him, but the stuff is there to make him at least a No. 3 starter and potentially something more if his slider or changeup improves. He should be ready to contribute at some point during 2014.

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Picks 2-5: Cubs follow with power-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant

Picks 6-10: Marlins take 3B Moran, Red Sox add LHP Ball

Picks 11-20: Mets draft a first baseman, Mariners look to third base

Picks 21-33: Yankees add bats, left-hander with three first-round picks

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).