The Rockies’ pursuit of Justin Morneau could “heat up” soon

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With Todd Helton now off to greener pastures, the Rockies need a new first baseman. You can expect them to start pursuing free agent Justin Morneau more heavily this week, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Morneau, now 32, was traded to the Pirates at the end of August after a 10 and a half year career with the Twins. He wasn’t particularly effective, mustering just a .681 OPS without hitting a home run in his month-plus with the Pirates.

Morneau has dealt with concussion issues since July 2010, when his head connected with then-Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald’s knee attempting to break up a double play. He missed the rest of the season, a total of 78 games. In late June 2011, he underwent surgery to address a herniated disc, knocking him out of another 55 games. He was shut down for the season at the end of August with an array of ailments, most importantly concussion symptoms that had flared up again. While he has played in at least 134 games in each of the past two seasons, he has been a shadow of his former self.

Colorado could be a good destination for Morneau, especially on a short-term deal. He would benefit from the hitter-friendly confines, which would allow him to rebuild his value and give him potentially one more chance to earn a nice contract before his career is over. In the event the Rockies don’t land Morneau, they consider James Loney their fallback option.

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).