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Astros hammer Yankees 8-3 in ALCS Game 4, take 3-1 series lead

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A pair of three-run home runs from George Springer and Carlos Correa paced the Astros as they defeated the Yankees 8-3 in Game 4 of the ALCS to take a 3-1 series lead. The Astros are one win away from reaching the World Series for the second time in three years.

Zack Greinke got the start for the ‘stros and immediately found himself in hot water. The right-hander issued three walks in the bottom of the first inning, the last of which came with the bases loaded and forced in a run to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

The lead wouldn’t last long as George Springer followed a Robinson Chirinos walk and a Josh Reddick single with a three-run home run to left field off of Masahiro Tanaka, putting the Astros on top 3-1.

Greinke got the first out of the fifth inning, but allowed a single to DJ LeMahieu, then walked Aaron Judge, ending his night. Ryan Pressly came in to put out the fire. He walked Aaron Hicks to load the bases, but rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts of Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnación to escape the inning. Greinke ended his night allowing the one run on three hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Alex Bregman led off the sixth inning reaching on a fielding error by LeMahieu, which ended Tanaka’s night. Chad Green entered in relief, allowing a one-out single to Yordan Álvarez before serving up a three-run dinger to Correa. Tanaka’s final line: four runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts across five-plus innings.

Gary Sánchez helped the Yankees claw back a bit with a two-run home run off of Josh James in the bottom half of the sixth to make it 6-3. But the Astros’ bullpen would hold the fort from there.

Will Harris took over in the seventh. He threw 13 pitches, striking out Hicks and Torres before getting Encarnación to ground out for a 1-2-3 inning. The Astros continued to mount offensive pressure in the top of the eighth, this time against Adam Ottavino. Bregman led off with a double, then Gurriel reached on a LeMahieu fielding error that put runners on the corners with no outs. Manager Aaron Boone decided to bring in lefty CC Sabathia to face Álvarez. Álvarez followed up with a grounder right to Torres but he bobbled the ball, allowing a run to score, Gurriel to advance to second, and Álvarez to reach safely. Sabathia would end up exiting the game with an apparent shoulder injury, likely making the final appearance of his major league career. Jonathan Loaisiga entered the game and ended the inning without any further damage.

Astros skipper A.J. Hinch handed the ball to Joe Smith for the eighth inning. He struck out Brett Gardner and Sánchez for two quick outs. Gio Urshela reached on a fielding error by Bregman to whisper the idea of a rally into the inning. Hinch, however, decided to squelch that idea by bringing in closer Roberto Osuna for a four-out save opportunity. He closed the book on the eighth by getting Didi Gregorius to foul out to the left side.

The Astros tacked on another run in the top of the ninth thanks to yet more poor defense on the Yankees’ part. Altuve led off, grounding a ball to Torres but the ball skipped under his glove, allowing Altuve to safely reach second base. Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch to move Altuve to third. Then Michael Brantley singled to right field to plate Altuve, making it 8-3. Facing Bregman, Loaisiga uncorked yet another wild pitch to allow Brantley to move up to second base before ending the at-bat in a walk. Thanks to lefty Tyler Lyons, that was the end of the Astros’ offensive front.

Osuna returned to the mound in the ninth looking for the save. LeMahieu flied out to right abd Judge grounded out. After walking Hicks, Osuna closed the door by getting Torres to fly out to right field. Fin. Astros win 8-3, take a 3-1 series lead.

The Yankees will look to avoid elimination in Game 5 of the ALCS on Friday night at home. James Paxton will oppose Justin Verlander. If the Astros win, they will match up with the Nationals in the World Series.

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: