No deal for Mark Appel and the Pirates

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Pirates first round draft pick Mark Appel is going back to college. Because he and Pittsburgh failed to reach a deal by today’s deadline.

The eighth overall pick had seemed like a signing longshot for some time. In large part because he was originally expected to be the first overall pick before his hometown Houston Astros passed on him after he declined a $6 million bonus before the draft.  That was not the maximum the Astros could have give him. They could have gone to $7.8 million in this new bonus-capped, hard-slotted world in which we now operate, but the ‘Stros obviously didn’t think he was worth it.

Enter the Pirates, who per the slot rules could have given Appel around $3.8 million or so. Maybe a bit more depending on what they did with later picks, but not much more.  Since negotiations began, this seemed like it was never going to happen. Appel wanted more and the Pirates would be forced to surrender a first round pick in 2013 if they exceeded their draft bonus cap.

As Matthew noted earlier this week, Appel would seem to have a lot to lose by going back to school for his senior season. Unless he raises his draft stock for next year, he won’t stand to make any more and could slide down further. It’s early yet, but next year’s draft looks kind of weak so it’s possible. But of course, there’s always a risk of injury.

Scott Boras is Appel’s agent and he is on record as hating the bonus caps. I suppose he hoped to bust them with Appel, just like he has busted past attempts by the owners to curb bonuses. But it didn’t work this time. Or maybe his client was simply obstinate. Hard to say.  Either way, the Pirates don’t have their first round pick and Appel has to wait another year to start his march to the majors.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.