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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and highlights

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And now, for the final time in 2017, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 4, Red Sox 3: Houston takes three of four from Boston and now goes on to play them in a best-of-five. Figure they have to be feeling pretty good about themselves, eh? Though, to be fair, both teams trotted out a bunch of backups so this was sort of a non-game. Jose Altuve won the batting crown: no surprise. Houston wins the West: no surprise. Boston won the East on Saturday. Now they get to cool their heels before meeting again.

Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1: Jose Bautista‘s last game with the Jays. A nice outing for Brett Anderson to enter the offseason and the job market on. The Yankees’ last game before the Wild Card matchup with the Twins on Tuesday, and they sort of went through the motions on it all.

Indians, 3, White Sox 1Jay Bruce had a two-run single, Josh Tomlin pitched one run ball into the sixth before a phalanx of relievers came on to finish it off. Win 102 for the Indians who now await the winner of the Twins-Yankees matchup Tuesday night.

Athletics 5, Rangers 2Daniel Mengden tossed seven shutout innings and struck out eight. The first hit he gave up was a single to Adrian Beltre in the fifth, which is something because Adrian Beltre was supposed to be shut down the other day but he played anyway because he’s Adrian Beltre and he does whatever the hell he wants. Khris Davis hit his career-best 43rd homer.

Pirates 11, Nationals 8: Gio Gonzalez was rocked for five runs in the first innings, capped by Max Moroff‘s three-run double. Wouldn’t really matter given that the Nats were just killing time before their NLDS matchup with the Cubs, but that makes the fourth Gonzalez start out of his last five that lasted five innings or fewer, which is not a good sign. Between that and Max Scherzer’s hamstring, things are a little spooky heading into the playoffs.

Phillies 11, Mets 0: Pete Mackanin and Terry Collins each bow out as manager of their respective teams. Maikel Franco hit a three-run homer. His went over the fence. Nick Williams hit a three-run homer, but it was an inside-the-park job.  Noah Syndergaard tossed two hitless innings. I guess that’s something to grow on for next year.

Giants 5, Padres 4: Both the Giants and Pablo Sandoval‘s 2017 were a disaster, but it ended nicely enough I suppose, as the Panda hit a walkoff homer to end the season. Matt Cain‘s nice outing on Saturday and Sandoval’s walkoff on Sunday kept the Giants from losing 100 games and provided a nice blast from the past at the same time. Those two winning performances also kept the Giants from having the worst record in baseball and thus earning the first pick in the 2018 draft. Just remember that if the Tigers pick the next Mike Trout or something.

Angels 6, Mariners 2: Parker Bridwell tossed seven shutout innings. James Paxton tossed six shutout innings. That meant that it was a 0-0 tie until the bottom of the seventh, but then the Angels put up a six-spot. Eric Young Jr. hit a three-run homer in the process. What a bad season end for both of these clubs, though. The Angels were close to the second Wild Card heading into the final couple of weeks of the season but lost 11 of their last 15. The Mariners — many people’s pick to be a contender this year — were eight games worse in 2017 than 2016.

Dodgers 6, Rockies 3: The Dodgers end their regular season having won eight of ten. Momentum is a myth, but I guess it’s better than stumbling into the playoffs the way they stumbled through early September. Ross Stripling and five relievers handled the Rockies pretty well. L.A. notches its 104th win, the second most in franchise history. Which is saying a lot given how storied the franchise is. Yet, if they do anything less than win it all, someone is gonna say they were failures. Sports are hard, man.

Twins 5, Tigers 1: Bartolo Colon pitched one-run ball into the seventh inning. What a season it’s been for him. From pitching himself off of a bad Braves team to helping the Twins reach the playoffs. Jason Castro homered and drove in three runs. Wild Card game, ahoy.

Braves 8, Marlins 5: Giancarlo doesn’t get his 60th homer, but 59 is a pretty good number too, obviously. He also has 132 RBI and he’s gonna win the NL MVP in a walk. Adonis Garcia and Kurt Suzuki hit homers for the Braves. Marcell Ozuna went deep for Miami. Don Mattingly has a tradition of letting a veteran player manage the final game of the season. Yesterday he let A.J. Ellis manage the game for the Marlins. Because Ellis was busy, Mattingly had to fill his role of providing anonymous quotes to the press about how Yasiel Puig was a bad teammate. Wait, what?

Rays 6, Orioles 0Blake Snell struck out a career-high 13 in seven innings in seven shutout innings. The Rays win their 80th game, which is 12 better than they did in 2016. Next year they may be downright frisky. The Orioles lost 19 of their last 23, getting shut out five times, and lost 14 more games than they did in 2016. Ick.

Diamondbacks 14, Royals 2: The end of an era for Kansas City, who will likely lose  Eric HosmerMike MoustakasLorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar to free agency. They got a nice sendoff too, being taken out of the game at the same time, in the fifth inning. As far as this game goes, it was all Arizona. Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a three-run homer. Gregor Blanco had three hits, two walks and three stolen bases. Now a one-game playoff with the Rockies for the privilege of facing the Dodgers in a best of five.

Brewers 6, Cardinals 1Aaron Wilkerson took a perfect game into the sixth inning and ended up allowing one run on only two his over seven innings. Brett Phillips hit a three-run homer. Jesus Aguliar added a two-run shot. It was a really nice year for the Brewers, even if they ended up falling just short.

Reds 3, Cubs 1: Deck McGuire tossed five shutout innings for Cincy and Joey Votto hit a couple of doubles, but this was like a spring training game in Mesa, with the Cubs pulling their starters early. Now they face the Nationals and begin their defense of the World Series trophy in earnest.

And now we bid adieu to And That Happened for the year. I began doing these recaps in 2008 and they continue to be my favorite part about writing for a living. It’s what wakes me up each morning of the season and what plugs me in to the game even if I unplug a bit for an evening or two. It’s my cup of coffee and, I hope anyway, it helps you start your day off well too. Thank you, everyone, for spending the past ten seasons with me doing this. The playoffs will now begin and we obviously will be here for it all. But I will be looking forward to a morning next March when we can begin season 11 of this little ritual.

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).