It begins: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, round two

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Expect a lot of columns of this nature over the next few months until a winner is announced. MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, using the two home runs Miguel Cabrera hit last night and this afternoon as a springboard, writes that Cabrera is “transcending” the AL MVP debate, which is once again boiling down to Cabrera and Trout as it did last year, with all due respect to Chris Davis.

Last year’s debate cast baseball traditionalists (pro-Cabrera) against proponents of Sabermetrics (pro-Trout). The pro-Cabrera crowd used the third baseman’s Triple Crown and sizable lead in the traditional stats as the reason why he is more deserving of the AL MVP award. The pro-Trout crowd cited his gigantic lead in Wins Above Replacement, which factored in less-obvious facets of the game like base running and defense as well as offense.

Baumann writes in his column:

As great as Cabrera’s Triple Crown season of 2012 was, his numbers this year are even better. Any argument against his American League MVP candidacy this season will require both a search party and considerable imagination.

With 48 games to go, Trout has already compiled 17 WAR (per Baseball Reference) in his career, good for 16th in Angels history.  He will likely move into at least 13th place by the time the season is over. Cabrera may well be putting up historically-great numbers — and he is — but so is Trout. And let’s not forget that Trout contributes in more ways than one, by running the bases well and playing decent defense. To ignore Trout’s greatness because of Cabrera is woefully myopic (and vice versa). We have more than enough space to appreciate both — and Chris Davis, too!

So, over the next three months, we’ll again be treated to a litany of columns about how numbers are scary and math is hard and you have to watch the games with your eyeballs instead of poring over a spreadsheet, and this is why Cabrera is great and Trout is not. Controversy is king. Acknowledging the greatness of more than one player at a time is, while the right thing to do, not very controversial.

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).