Don Mattingly on the reaction to Puig and Gomez: “we have to loosen up a bit”

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Don Mattingly was never a showboat as a player. He was about as straight shooting, business-is-business kinds of guys out there. As a manager he still is. I mean, you don’t get the nickname Donnie Baseball for nothing. He’s the epitome of a “baseball guy,” which is a descriptor most people around the game use to describe people who take the game seriously and never ruffle people’s feathers.

But he has a supreme feather-ruffler playing for him in Yasiel Puig. And he’s well-aware of another feather-ruffler in Carlos Gomez. And over the weekend he said something which a lot of other baseball guys should probably listen to: relax, fellas:

“Guys play with emotion, and that can get on your nerves,” said Mattingly. “Gomez plays with a lot of fire, and it rubs people the wrong way. Every team has guys that bug you. It’s just the way it is. Puig is a guy on our team, he draws as much attention as anybody. But it’s a little silly. You can still be respectful of your opponent and carry yourself with class.

“I do think we have to loosen up a bit or there will be more and more times that guys take offense. I’m not talking about the Giants. It’s all around baseball.”

Sure, he’s obviously defending his own guy here, as these comments came the day after Puig and Madison Bumgarner jawed at each other when Bumgarner took offense at a Puig bat flip. But including Gomez in it too suggests that this is something Mattingly believes even when it doesn’t apply just to a Dodgers player.

And he’s right. Looking to take offense at even the most insignificant of deviations from baseball’s conventions of formality is “all around baseball.” I have no idea whether that strain of no-fun-allowed thinking has increased or if it has merely been flushed out into the open by a couple of flamboyant players, but it’s such a drag.

And if someone as conventional as Don Mattingly is saying it, it’s probably worth listening to.

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).