The powerful, yet dysfunctional, Brewers lineup

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In trading last year’s leadoff man, Norichika Aoki, and failing to add the quality left-handed-hitting first baseman they wanted, the Brewers have left themselves with the most unbalanced lineup in baseball.

Here are the likely starters, along with my projection for each:

C: Jonathan Lucroy (R) – .283/.337/.443
1B: Mark Reynolds (R) – .231/.328/.455
2B: Scooter Gennett (L) – .270/.311/.382
3B: Aramis Ramirez (R) – .277/.350/.470
SS: Jean Segura (R) – .283/.336/.379
LF: Khris Davis (R) – .231/.315/.428
CF: Carlos Gomez (R) – .250/.306/.444
RF: Ryan Braun (R) – .297/.376/.525

From a production standpoint, that’s not bad at all. A Braun-Ramirez-Lucroy middle-of-the-order should work out fine. Figuring out what to do with the rest of the group is the tough call. It’s clear that Segura is going to get a look as a leadoff man. There’s only the one lefty in Gennett, and he projects as the worst hitter in the group. In fact, Rickie Weeks may still be a better player than Gennett, though if he starts, that leaves the Brewers without any lefties at all, unless maybe Reynolds misses out on the first base job.

Ignoring handedness, Gennett would probably hit eighth, with Segura and Gomez occupying the top two spots in the lineup. But seven righties in a row would be tough. My thought would be to hit Gennett eighth anyway, simply because I don’t think either Davis or Reynolds would do well there. Those two would see oodles of breaking balls out of the zone while hitting ahead of the pitcher.

If Davis and Reynolds both produce well enough to get 450-500 at-bats, the Brewers have a great shot of leading the league in homers. I’m not sure that would put them into the top five in runs scored, though. That will hinge more on Segura, who tapered off badly as last year went along, and Gomez, who had a lifetime .294 OBP and .673 OPS before busting out with a .338 OBP and an .843 OPS last year.

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).