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Chris Sale unlikely to be used out of the bullpen in ALDS Game 3

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Red Sox’ skipper John Farrell has been mulling over his options for Game 3 of the ALDS, which is scheduled to kick off on Sunday at 2:30 PM ET. On Saturday, he mentioned to reporters that he was considering using both David Price and Chris Sale out of the bullpen, the general idea being that it was “all hands on deck” during a must-win game. By Sunday afternoon, however, he changed his tune, saying that he’d like to spare Sale the relief appearance in order to prepare him for a potential Game 5 start.

That’s a pretty optimistic view for a club whose rotation has taken an 11-run beating at the hands of the Astros over Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS. The bullpen has fared little better, though it’s worth noting that Price and Rick Porcello (who’s currently tabbed for a potential Game 4 start) fired a combined 3 2/3 scoreless frames in consecutive losses.

As for Sale, he’s coming off of a disastrous start in Game 1, when he scattered nine hits, seven runs and six strikeouts over five innings. Three of those runs came via the long ball: Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve went back-to-back in the first inning and Altuve returned for a second helping in the fifth.

Doug Fister is set to take the hill for the Red Sox on Sunday, and Farrell appears to be pinning his hopes on a lengthy, run-free start from the right-hander. That’s easier said than done. Fister hasn’t recorded a full six innings since the first week of September and folded against the Astros during his last start of the regular season, taking his ninth loss of the year with three runs, five hits and five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. In the postseason, however, things don’t look quite so bleak. The veteran righty carries more clout than either Porcello or potential Game 3 starter Eduardo Rodriguez, touting a 4-1 record and 1.78 ERA over eight starts with the 2011-2013 Tigers and 2014 Nationals.

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).