Hunter Pence takes a seat on Houston’s bench

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With trade rumors swirling, Hunter Pence is on the Astros bench on Wednesday night.  However, it’s not because he’s been dealt, says the Houston Chronicle’s Zachary Levine.

Pence, mired in a 7-for-40 skid since the All-Star break, was told Tuesday that he’d get tonight off.

Pence has just one extra-base hit and two RBI in 11 games since his All-Star appearance.  He had 17 doubles, eight homers and 43 RBI in 55 games during April and May, but he has just seven doubles, three homers and 19 RBI in 42 games since.

Still, Pence’s trade value remains sky-high.  The Astros reportedly backed out of a deal with the Phillies that might have included two top prospects in right-hander Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton.  The Braves could also redouble their efforts to land the right fielder after losing Brian McCann to the disabled list.

Then there are the Red Sox, who insist on testing the waters whenever an All-Star talent becomes available.

The Astros still appear unlikely to deal Pence, preferring instead to discuss starting pitchers Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez.  Still, given the dearth of talent in the organization, they’d be foolish to rule anything out.

Yasiel Puig just blew Game 7 of the NLCS wide open

Yasiel Puig
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So much for a Game 7 nail-biter. The Brewers and Dodgers were separated by just one run for the first five innings of Saturday’s NLCS finale, but a monster three-run shot from Yasiel Puig boosted the Dodgers to a four-run advantage in the top of the sixth.

The timing couldn’t have been better for Los Angeles. Brewers’ left-hander Josh Hader entered the game in the third inning and dominated the opposition for three scoreless innings, then was replaced on the mound by fellow lefty Xavier Cedeño. Cedeño promptly issued a leadoff single to Max Muncy to start the sixth and, just as promptly, was lifted for right-hander Jeremy Jeffress. After giving up another base hit to Justin Turner, it looked like Jeffress turned a corner. He induced a fly out from Manny Machado, then got Cody Bellinger to ground into a force out to shift the Dodgers’ runners to the corners with two outs.

That didn’t faze Puig, however. After appearing in 10 playoff games without a single home run, the outfielder blasted a 1-1 knuckle curve to center field to pad the Dodgers’ lead.

With three innings left to play, it’s still too soon to say whether or not the Dodgers just punched their ticket to the World Series. They lead the Brewers 5-1 in the seventh.