2014 MLB Draft: Astros make high school LHP Brady Aiken first overall pick

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Picking first for the third year in a row, the Astros went where no team leading off the draft had gone in over 20 years, making high school left-hander Brady Aiken the first overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Aiken is the first prep pitcher taken No. 1 overall since the Yankees went with left-hander Brien Taylor in 1991. Taylor, who seemed well on his way to justifying the hype initially, famous flamed out after hurting his shoulder in a bar fight.

Aiken follows high school shortstop Carlos Correa (2012) and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel (2013) as No. 1 overall picks to join the Houston farm system, as the Astros became the first team ever to draft first three straight years by virtue of having MLB’s worst record each time. Prior to 2005, that would have been impossible, since it was alternated by year whether the AL’s worst team or the NL’s worst team got the No. 1 pick.

Aiken, 17, is a SoCal native with a 94-97 mph fastball, curve and changeup. He told MLB.com he’s also working on a cutter. “The goal is to just maintain my command and velocity, and hopefully I can work in a fourth pitch like that [cutter],” he said.

The Astros will surely go slowly with Aiken, and it’s doubtful he’ll reach the majors prior to 2017 even if everything goes as hoped.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.