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Astros top Yankees 4-1 in Game 3, take 2-1 ALCS lead

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The Astros have taken a two games to one series lead in the ALCS after shutting down the Yankees 4-1 in Game 3 in New York on Tuesday. Gerrit Cole, without his best stuff, fired seven shutout innings while José Altuve and Josh Reddick each hit solo homers against Luis Severino to jump-start the offense.

Altuve’s home run came with one out in the top of the first inning, immediately giving Cole a lead. After Cole wriggled out of a jam in the bottom half of the inning, Reddick tacked on a homer of his own to lead off the second.

The Yankees were not without opportunities to answer. They had four plate appearances with a runner on scoring position in the first, one in the second, one in the fourth, and two in the fifth, going 0-for-6 with RISP and leaving nine runners on base.

Cole ultimately blanked the Yankees on four hits and five walks with seven strikeouts across seven innings. Severino, his counterpart, gave up two runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. That Severino pitched into the fifth was impressive in and of itself after a 36-pitch first inning.

The Astros tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh inning with a little help from catcher Gary Sánchez. Adam Ottavino walked George Springer to open the inning, then Altuve slapped a grounder to right field on a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners. Lefty Zach Britton entered, getting Michael Brantley to hit a grounder to first base that allowed DJ LeMahieu to nab Springer at home. With Altuve on third and Brantley on second, Britton intentionally walked Alex Bregman to bring up Yuli Gurriel. During the at-bat, Britton threw a sinker in the dirt that a better catcher would’ve blocked. Sánchez didn’t. The ball skipped away, allowing Altuve to score and everyone else to advance a base. Gurriel then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Brantley, making it 4-0.

Smith took over in the eighth. Gleyber Torres ruined the shutout with one out, sending a Joe Smith sinker over the fence in right field for his second postseason homer. Thus ended Smith’s night. Will Harris took over, getting Didi Gregorius to pop up for the second out and Sánchez to ground out to end the frame.

In the bottom of the ninth, manager A.J. Hinch handed the ball to closer Roberto Osuna. He got Gio Urshela to fly out to center field, Aaron Hicks to line out to center, and DJ LeMahieu to ground out to third base to complete a 1-2-3 inning. Astros win 4-1.

Now up 2-1 in the ALCS, the Astros will look to put even more distance between themselves and the Yankees on Wednesday in Game 4 in the Bronx. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08 PM ET.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: