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Yankees chase Charlie Morton in the fourth inning of ALCS Game 3, but he actually pitched decently

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Astros starter Charlie Morton was taken out with two outs in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday night. Morton surrendered three runs in the second and was on the hook for another four in the fourth, but he actually threw a decent game.

Morton got the first two outs in the second in short order, but Starlin Castro kept the inning alive with a very weakly hit single down the third base line. The exit velocity on that one, according to Statcast, was 57 MPH. Aaron Hicks then blooped a 2-2 splitter into shallow left-center field. Exit velocity: 74 MPH. After working a 1-1 count against Todd Frazier, Morton threw a fastball low and away, but Frazier was somehow able to muster enough strength to push it over the fence in right-center for a three-run homer.

In the fourth, Greg Bird led off the inning with a ground-rule double to left field on a ball that left the bat at 78 MPH. Unfortunately for Morton, Cameron Maybin just horribly misplayed the ball and because he didn’t touch it, he didn’t get charged with an error.

Morton rebounded by getting a couple of outs. He didn’t appear to be pitching around Frazier, but walked him on five pitches. Morton then got Chase Headley to hit a ground ball (88.4 MPH), but second baseman Jose Altuve was shaded a bit too far to the right. Though he was able to corral it in the shallow outfield, he had no play, and the Yankees got their fourth run of the game. Morton hit Gardner, the next batter, with a 0-1 curve, loading the bases. That was the final straw for manager A.J. Hinch, who brought in Will Harris to relieve Morton. Facing Aaron Judge, Harris uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Frazier to score to make it 5-0. After working the count to 2-2, Judge ripped an up-and-in fastball that just barely got over the wall in left field for a three-run homer to up the score to 8-0.

Morton’s final line: 3 2/3 innings, seven runs (all earned), six hits (the one not listed here was a bunt single in the first), two walks, one hit batsman, three strikeouts. Here are the hit probabilities of five of those hits (excluding the bunt), according to Baseball Savant:

  • Castro single: 10 percent
  • Hicks single: 70 percent
  • Frazier homer: 55 percent
  • Bird double: 4 percent
  • Headley single: 12 percent

Unfortunately for Morton, he was a victim of bad luck, bad timing, and bad relief. He pitched much, much better than the box score indicates.

The Astros, meanwhile, hit into some bad luck. Yuli Gurriel crushed a fastball to right field in the second inning off of CC Sabathia, but Judge made a fantastic leaping catch that caused him to crash into the wall and tumble backwards. That had a hit probability of 59 percent and was “barreled,” according to Baseball Savant. Maybin “barreled” a ball in the fifth that Judge dove in on and caught. That would be a hit 77 percent of the time.

This isn’t to make excuses for the Astros. The Yankees have outplayed them this game. But contrary to the score, the Yankees haven’t been blowing the Astros out of the water. This is the kind of game the Astros shouldn’t read to much into looking ahead the rest of the series.

Report: Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have either traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers or are on the verge of doing so. Jon Heyman says the deal is done. Others are reporting that it’s close. It is not clear yet what the Indians will be receiving in return in what seems like an inevitable transaction.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.