The Marlins are screwing over one of their players… again

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When the Marlins demoted starting center fielder Marcell Ozuna on July 5, it made some sense. Sure, they had no one to replace him, but he was in a lengthy slump and 10-14 days in Triple-A might have been just the thing to restore his confidence at the plate.

And it was. Ozuna hit .325 with two homers and four doubles in his first 10 games back in the minors. But he wasn’t recalled.

Two weeks later, Ozuna is still rotting away in Triple-A while the Marlins play Christian Yelich out of position in center and Cole Gillespie, Ichiro Suzuki and recently Derek Dietrich in the corners. Ichiro played in 24 games and got 77 at-bats last month, hitting .195/.250/.234.

Ozuna has kept producing through all of this, hitting .314/.372/.558 in 24 games in Triple-A. It’s really hard to imagine that he’s not one of the Marlins’ three-best outfielders right now. Even his disappointing major league line of .249/.301/.337 features an average, an OBP and a slugging percentage better than Ichiro’s.

But, of course, the Marlins have reasons to keep Ozuna down. Financial reasons. Money reasons. Jeffrey Loria reasons. See, Ozuna entered the 2015 season with one year and 153 days of service time, practically assuring that he would be super-two arbitration eligible if he remained in the majors. That’s not going to happen now. If he were recalled today, he’d already be a long shot to qualify for super two. If the Marlins wait another week, it’s a given that he’ll miss the cut off.

So, they’ll wait another week.

Ozuna’s continued presence in Triple-A is all about saving Loria a buck. His free agency timetable hasn’t changed, but losing out on that fourth year of arbitration will probably cost him $5 million-$10 million over these next few years. That’s apparently enough to make it worth it for Loria. He hasn’t even gotten the kind of negative publicity for it that he might if he were holding back a top prospect instead (oddly enough, the Marlins rarely hold back top prospects for service time considerations, which is why they get themselves into such situations later).

I do wonder, though, if this will really pay off for Loria in the long run. Ozuna is a Scott Boras client. Jose Fernandez is a Boras client. Lots of good players are Boras clients. Spiting him to save a couple of million per year doesn’t seem like the greatest of ideas.

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).