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Nationals place Justin Miller on 10-day injured list with lower back strain

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The Nationals have assigned right-handed reliever Justin Miller to the 10-day injured list, the team announced Saturday. Miller was diagnosed with a lower back strain after laboring through an unsuccessful outing on Friday night. He was replaced on the 25-man roster by rookie right-hander Austen Williams, who was brought in from Triple-A Fresno and figures to be available for the remainder of the weekend series.

Miller, 31, struggled during the Nationals’ 6-3 loss to the Pirates last night. He stepped in for Matt Grace in the top of the 10th inning and induced a groundout from Starling Marte, then gave up the game-winning three-run homer to Colin Moran in the next at-bat. While he didn’t appear to be in obvious pain during the game, team doctors later determined that he had aggravated the back issues he developed during last weekend’s series against the Mets. “It just feels like somebody’s punching me in the kidney every single time I try and throw a ball,” Miller told reporters.

Prior to the diagnosis, Miller had allowed four runs, two walks, and six strikeouts over his first 6 1/3 innings of the 2019 season. (That hasn’t done much to alleviate the issues facing the Nationals’ bullpen, which currently ranks eighth-worst in the NL with a cumulative 8.12 ERA and 0.0 fWAR, per FanGraphs.) It’s still unclear whether he’ll be able to make a full comeback within such a short window, however, or whether the club will start to look at external options if Williams needs more time to get the hang of things at the major-league level.

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.