I got an email a few minutes ago with a link to Howard Megdal’s Sports On Earth article about Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons. That’s like sending porn to a sex addict. How that didn’t go straight into the spam folder with all the other offers sent in order to appeal to my prurient interests I have no idea. All I know is that if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my bunk.
While I’m gone, go read Megdal’s piece. In it he asks Fredi Gonzalez to compare Simmons and Ozzie Smith. Which, after one gets past the silliness of comparing a Hall of Famer to a guy in his second full year and allows themselves to take a few magical leaps of faith, isn’t the silliest comparison at all.
But no matter how you fall on that — defensive metrics are still in their infancy, making such comparisons even more difficult than they seem at first — it’s undeniable that Simmons is the best defensive shortstop in the game and that his offense, while still a work in progress, doesn’t have to be that much better to transform him from the best defenders in the game into one of the best players in the game, full stop.
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.