Billy Burns
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Yankees sign Billy Burns to minors deal

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It’s been a minute since Billy Burns was at the top of his game. The 2015 Rookie of the Year nominee hasn’t appeared in a major league game since the middle of the 2017 season, but a promising surge in Triple-A last year seems to have caught the eye of at least one major-league team this winter. Per reports from Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage and Fancred’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees inked the veteran outfielder to yet another minors pact for 2019.

Burns, 29, spent the entirety of his 2018 run with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, slashing a respectable, if underwhelming .255/.314/.316 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 18 chances), and 36 RBI through 425 plate appearances. While he’s not all that far removed from his .294-average, 26-stolen base totals with the A’s, there’s nothing to suggest that he’s capable of supplanting any member of the Yankees’ starting outfield trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron in 2019 (with Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier waiting in the wings if Stanton is utilized at DH). At best, he’ll provide the club with some solid minors depth and a serviceable pinch-running option, should they choose to recall him from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at any point during the season.

Beyond the outfield, the rest of the Yankees’ roster is still up for revision. GM Brian Cashman said Friday that recently-acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will start for the team in 2019, suggesting that any plans they might have to acquire free agent Manny Machado would see the star infielder shifted to third base. Sans Machado, the Yankees are expected to fill out the remaining gaps in their infield with Miguel Andújar at the hot corner, Gleyber Torres at the keystone, and Luke Voit at first base.

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.