Jesus Montero’s future in doubt with 50-game ban

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Two years ago, one could have looked at the group of the 14 suspensed Biogenesis players — Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Jordany Valdespin, Sergio Escalona, Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello, Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto —  and concluded that, besides Braun, Montero had the most promising future of the group.

Now, the big Montero-for-Michael Pineda trade, which was shaping up as a winner for the Mariners a year ago, might be a dud all around. Pineda just had a setback in his return from shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t look like he’ll contribute for the Yankees this season. Montero showed some promise during his rookie season in 2012, hitting .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 515 at-bats, but he was a total bust in the majors this year, hitting .208/.264/.327 with three homers in 101 at-bats, and the Mariners have given up on him as a catcher.

MLB has yet to make it clear how minor leaguers will serve their Biogenesis suspensions; there aren’t 50 games left in the minor league seasons, so those could linger into next year. Montero, though, is on the 40-man roster and will be suspended as a major leaguer, so he should be able to finish his suspension in September and enter 2014 with a clean slate. Still, nothing he’s done this year suggests that he should be in Seattle’s plans for Opening Day. Justin Smoak has taken a step forward and is likely to remain the team’s first baseman next year. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez are free agents, so the DH spot will be open. The Mariners, though, don’t seem likely to reserve it for him. One imagines they’ll make an attempt to re-sign Morales. Perhaps it’d be better for Montero if they re-signed Michael Morse as a DH instead, since Morse could always shift back to the outfield if Montero emerges. That’s not an option with Morales.

Montero, though, is going to have to prove himself all over again, and that’s probably going to require some Triple-A time. He’s only used up one option year, so that’s not a problem. Since Montero doesn’t have anything going for him except his bat now, he’ll need to mash to earn another chance. He’ll be 24 next year, and if he doesn’t find his stroke then, many will start writing him off.

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Update: A source told NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra that Montero will, in fact, be able to finish out his suspension this year, since he is on the 40-man roster. Minor leaguers given 50-game bans will be forced to sit out the start of next year, since there are only 25-30 games left in the minor league seasons.

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).