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Dallas Keuchel tied a franchise postseason strikeout record

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The Astros didn’t need an excess of run support on Friday, clinching their first ALCS game after Dallas Keuchel tossed a gem against the Yankees. Not only was he the first Houston pitcher with a scoreless start in the 2017 playoffs, but he joined an exclusive group of Astros’ hurlers with his seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance. The last Astros’ starter to rack up 10+ strikeouts in the postseason was Nolan Ryan, who fanned 12 batters en route to a 1-2 loss in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS; several days earlier, Mike Scott recorded a franchise-best 14 strikeouts during a complete game shutout in Game 1.

Keuchel, however, is the first lefty to match the record, narrowly edging out two nine-strikeout performances by Randy Johnson (1998) and Mike Hampton (1999). On Friday, he caused trouble from the get-go. Brett Gardner fell for Keuchel’s heater in the first inning, while Gary Sanchez was foiled by a slider that was blocked at the plate. Keuchel fanned Aaron Hicks and Gary Bird with back-to-back strikeouts in the second inning; in the third, Aaron Judge capped an unproductive inning after chasing another slider out of the zone.

Almost everyone came back for seconds. Sanchez was called out on strikes again in the fourth, while Gardner collected his second strikeout in the fifth. Riding the high of Marwin Gonzalez’s terrific throw to catch Bird at the plate, Keuchel kicked off the sixth inning with another pair of back-to-back strikeouts, getting Sanchez a third time and whiffing Didi Gregorius with his devastating slider. In the seventh, Bird helped Keuchel reach history, battling through a seven-pitch at-bat for the lefty’s 10th and final strikeout of the night.

If it feels like it’s been a while since you’ve seen a southpaw dominate at this level in the playoffs, well, that’s because it has. Per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, Keuchel’s gem was the first of its kind since Cliff Lee went seven scoreless with 10 strikeouts for the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal,¬†LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune¬†reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.