Baltimore wasn’t able to come to an agreement with Minnesota for Josh Willingham, but the Orioles have added a right-handed power hitter in acquiring Michael Morse from Seattle for Triple-A outfielder Xavier Avery.
Morse, unlike Willingham, is an impending free agent, so the Mariners were perfectly willing to let him go following a very disappointing season. He got off to a big start in April, but Morse is batting just .214 with four homers and a .613 OPS in his last 50 games and also missed five weeks with a quadriceps injury.
When he’s playing well Morse provides very good power from the right side, but he’s a brutal defensive outfielder and has a measly .305 on-base percentage with an ugly 177/36 K/BB ratio in 178 games since the beginning of last season. Of course, the Orioles will probably use him mostly at designated hitter, where his defense wouldn’t be an issue, and their DHs have hit a combined .217 with a .672 OPS this season.
Avery is a speedy, light-hitting 23-year-old who projects as a backup outfielder, so for a cheap one-month pickup Morse makes some sense for Baltimore.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.