Dan Naulty talks about steroid use, sexual abuse, Yankee prayer meetings

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While I’d recommend skipping the intro, the body of Tom Verducci’s latest work for Sports Illustrated is an incredible tale, that of former Twins and Yankees pitcher Dan Naulty. Among the things Naulty discusses are how steroids took him from 180 pounds to 240 and added 10 mph to his fastball, how the sexual abuse of a male coach and a female teacher affected his development and how alcoholism nearly led to him committing suicide.

Less enthralling but more baseball-related, Naulty notes the prayer meetings members of the Yankees held during the 1998 championship season. From the article:

Naulty was assigned a locker between relievers Mariano Rivera and Jason Grimsley, two of many devout Christians on the team, a group that also included Andy Pettitte, Joe Girardi, Mike Stanton and Chad Curtis. They would invite Naulty to what they called “daily devotionals,” gatherings in a dingy storage room in the bowels of Yankee Stadium to read Scripture and pray together. After a month or so, Naulty decided to join in.

… Naulty was shocked at the participants in the Yankees’ daily devotionals: star players with huge contracts. “I was just floored that people who made that much money needed God,” he says. “Why on earth would I need God when I was with the Yankees and I’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars and I’ve got whatever I want?”

… Years later, Pettitte, Stanton and Grimsley, like Naulty, were named in the Mitchell Report. “Shocked,” Naulty says. “It would obviously contradict everything we believe as Christians. That was certainly shocking.”

Go and read the whole thing when you have 15-20 minutes. It’s well worth it.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.