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Report: Cardinals are open to re-signing Juan Nicasio

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have already begun talks with right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio about a multi-year extension, though no deal is expected to come to fruition until the offseason. The 31-year-old righty was traded to the Cardinals for Phillies’ reliever Eliezer Alvarez in September and stands to earn $3.65 million in 2017 before becoming a free agent this fall.

There’s interest on both sides, Goold adds, which seems obvious given the right-hander’s career-best numbers this year. He made nine appearances for the club over the last month of the season, recording four saves and maintaining a 1.64 ERA, 1.6 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 over 11 innings. In back-to-back-to-back stints with the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals, Nicasio incurred a cumulative 1.4 fWAR — just a smidgen under his career-best 1.8 mark from 2013.

The only potential hitch in a long-term deal is the matter of Nicasio’s role with the team. He converted to a full-time bullpen role earlier in the year and is looking for consistent closing opportunities, whether those come in St. Louis or elsewhere in the league. That’s not something the Cardinals can guarantee, Goold points out, but they may give him more leeway in the bullpen than another major league suitor would be inclined to do.

Of course, it’s not all about the saves. The Cardinals are two seasons removed from their last playoff run and made a concerted effort to go for the division title again this year. It’s not inconceivable that they would be in a position to offer Nicasio a ticket to the playoffs in the near future. “I would definitely like to come back,” Nicasio told reporters on Saturday. “This is a winning franchise and a team that has had a lot of success, and I would like to come back for another year or however long they’d like to extend me and hopefully win a championship.”

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).