Astros pitching coach thinks trade rumors are distracting Wandy Rodriguez

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Wandy Rodriguez lasted just four innings against the Padres on Saturday, allowing five runs to give him a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 outings, and afterward Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail suggested that the left-hander is distracted by trade rumors.

“We saw it last year when we were going through it and his name kept coming up,” Brocail said, via Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. “He gets a little nervous about that. I try to tell him it’s nothing you can control, But I see it because I’m with him every day and talk to him every day. I just think that lately his mind’s been elsewhere, and we need to work on that.”

Rodriguez has been one of the best, most underrated starters in the National League, posting ERAs of 3.54, 3.02, 3.60, and 3.49 from 2008-2011, so when he struggles it’s natural to search for a reason. And while Brocail is right that Rodriguez also struggled some around the trade deadline last season, posting a 4.94 ERA in July, he also had a 3.32 ERA in August while rumors continued to swirl around him leading up the waiver trade deadline.

The funny thing about baseball is that when Rodriguez posted a 2.14 ERA in his first 10 starts this season no one searched for reasons why he was clearly out-performing his career norms, yet when he’s posted a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 starts now his reaction to trade rumors is viewed as the cause. Both the 2.14 ERA early and the 5.65 recently are basically equally out of line from his established track record, and if you add them up Rodriguez has a 3.75 ERA overall this season. His combined ERA during the previous five seasons? 3.63.

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.