Corey Kluber is deserving of some attention

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Indians starter Corey Kluber shut down the Orioles on Saturday afternoon, blanking them over seven innings on five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts. It marks his fifth consecutive quality start, and the right-hander now owns a 3.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 83/17 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings over 11 starts. Pretty good.

Sure, there are better starters in the American League — Kluber’s ERA is 15th best, which is good but not outstanding. But those ahead of him, with the exception of Angels starter Garrett Richards, have all gotten some press in one way or another. There has been relatively little fanfare around Kluber, even after April 24’s gem against the Royals in which he allowed one unearned run with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a complete game victory, and after May 4’s dominating outing against the White Sox in which he allowed one run over eight innings while striking out 13 and walking two.

By defense-independent measures, Kluber has been among the best in the league. His 2.23 FIP leads Felix Hernandez at 2.29, and his 2.72 xFIP is fifth-best. For those not familiar, FIP assumes a pitcher’s home run rate is under his control while xFIP assumes a league-average home run rate.

Kluber’s 27 percent strikeout rate is fifth best in the AL and his 5.5 percent walk rate is the 15th-lowest. And the funny thing is, Kluber has arguably been unlucky as his .355 BABIP is well above the league average of .298 for starting pitchers. So there’s reason to believe that Kluber could get even better as the season progresses.

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).