Aroldis Chapman likely to face live hitters Wednesday

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Aroldis Chapman is about to face his most important test yet in his recovery from facial fractures, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the hard-throwing left-hander will likely throw live batting practice Wednesday.

Chapman threw 45 pitches Sunday in a bullpen session, so the Reds want to make sure he feels good before committing to a specific day. However, if he goes ahead and pitches on Wednesday as planned, Reds manager Bryan Price believes that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.

“He’s increased 10 pitches incrementally,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s thrown all his pitches — fastball, slider, change. There’s really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren’t ready to pitch.

“But it’s like anything else: He threw (Sunday) we’ve got to see how he responds. I would say it’s likely that he throws Wednesday in live batting practice. But if there’s any concern, we would push it back.”

Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose when he was hit in the face by a comebacker off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez on March 19. He needed surgery to have a plate inserted in his forehead.

The Reds are using the recently-activated Jonathan Broxton as their fill-in closer right now, but Chapman could be ready to return by mid-May if all goes well.

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).