If we don’t see another Game 7 in the 2017 postseason, we’re at least going to have this one. It’s Astros vs. Yankees in Houston. Series all tied up. Win-or-go-home. Charlie Morton takes the mound for the ‘Stros, while CC Sabathia tries to get the Yankees to win their second come-from-behind postseason series of the year.
The Astros don’t have Justin Verlander tonight — well, okay, maybe he’ll pitch since he’s Verlander and someone told him he can’t. AJ Hinch has said his entire pitching staff could make an appearance in Game 7 if necessary. Joe Girardi won’t need anything like that unless Sabathia implodes, and given how he’s pitched this postseason, that seems unlikely.
It could very well be a battle of the bullpens, and the advantage there goes to New York. However, the Astros’ bats finally woke up, so... yeah, we could go in circles for a while here. Thankfully, we don’t have to consider it long, because first pitch is at 8:08 p.m. ET, and we’ll be live blogging it all.
As usual, if you want to catch up from the beginning, scroll down to the “1st inning” header and work your way back up.
Lance McCullers is indeed back out for his fourth inning of relief, as AJ Hinch attempts to solve his “we can’t trust anyone in this bullpen against the Yankees’ lineup” issue by not going to anyone in his actual bullpen.
McCullers is slated to face Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird as Houston attempts to get these last three outs and earn their first-ever World Series berth as the AL’s representative — and just the second Fall Classic appearance in franchise history.
Gregorius struck out swinging on three pitches. Two outs left in the Yankees’ season.
Bird is down 0-2 in a hurry — McCullers is just attacking the plate with his curveball. Do you hear me, David Cone? It’s a curveball.
That curveball was thrown again — shocker — and Sanchez goes down on strikes, too. This four-inning save, by the way, if it happens, would be the first of McCullers’ career.
Here’s Greg Bird with the bases empty, and one out left in the Yankees’ season. McCullers throws two balls to open the plate appearance, and asks for a different baseball.
Bird flies out to center, and George Springer makes it official: the Houston Astros are off to the World Series to face the Dodgers.
The Yankees have nothing to be ashamed of: they were expected to show positive signs in a rebuild, and instead, they pushed a 100-win team to the brink in the ALCS. Congrats to both squads for their work in the AL this year.
McCullers kicks off the eighth inning with a leadoff, four-pitch walk to Todd Frazier, and now Headley is up. He strikes out, and in the process takes the lead in stranded runners for New York in this game.
There’s no time for McCullers to relax, as the top of the lineup is here, which means Aaron Judge’s deficit-cleaving bat is nearly up. Judge might have to do it himself, too, as Gardner flew out to center.
No cleaving here, though, as he can’t touch McCullers’ breaking ball — the Astros escape a baserunner yet again. Judge, in the process of pushing the game along, sets the single-postseason record for strikeouts with 27.
Robertson is still in the game after he navigated his way through the seventh. He gets McCann swinging to record the first out. It must feel better to pay for McCann to strike out than it does to pay for him to drive in Game 7 runs against you.
We’re being teased with the possibility of a four-inning save from McCullers. That would be something, especially in this postseason where pitching changes sometimes happen more often than runs.
Grant Brisbee just mentioned Madison Bumgarner’s five-inning save from the 2014 World Series in our Slack room. I’d brag about that too if a Red Sox pitcher pulled that ish off.
Here’s Adam Warren in the bottom of the sixth after finishing off the fifth. Josh Reddick does not get a hit, so that lone knock wasn’t the cure for what ailed him at the plate.
Springer pops out for the second out, and Bregman sends the ball much further, but also into a glove. Houston is still up 4-0 after six innings, however.
George Springer, dear lord. He just jumped over Marwin Gonzalez to make a grab at the wall. Gonzalez just leaned after the wall after with a look of “I don’t know why I even bothered” plastered on his face, which really made it that much more fun.
Castro then punched out, followed by a Hicks’ groundout. He’s at 26 pitches with the Astros up 4-0 through five and a half.
David Robertson enters the game to a chorus of “Yankees suck!” chants from the Houston faithful. He shows his disagreement by striking out Altuve. Correa rips a single after that, though, and Robertson looks a little tired. Not like he did on Friday, when he allowed four runs to the Astros, but still. Not as crisp as he did when he pitched 3-1/3 against the Twins in the Wild Card Game.
It’s possible the Yankees are now paying the price of that bullpen game, as wild card teams sometimes do. There is still a lot of Game 7 left, so there is time for that to change. But still, read up between innings. Or just check this selected quote:
Those innings mean something, though. Green is a former starter, so he can probably absorb them. David Robertson seems like a sturdy fella, and he's not being used in a traditional eighth- or ninth-inning role, so the Yankees can play around with him. Tommy Kahnle is more of a mystery when it comes to stretching his arm out, but he certainly acquitted himself well. But those innings don't reset after the 27th out. There's a cost to spending that much bullpen capital this early.
Robertson gets the lead runner on a Gurriel grounder, but the Yankees can’t get the double play turned, and now Evan Gattis is up. Luckily for New York, he pops up to end the frame. They’re down 4-0 through seven full innings.
Lance McCullers indeed comes into the game in relief of Morton. Not to alarm Astros’ fans, but they lost the last game McCullers pitched, one in which the Astros were up 4-0. And, also, the biggest comeback in Game 7 history was four runs, which the Yankees managed in 2003, according to Smoltz on the broadcast just now.
Also Brett Gardner just got a hit against McCullers. Gardner hasn’t been getting hits against anyone.
McCullers does manage to get Judge out, so that’s one potential dinger crisis averted. He still has Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez to get through, however, so please, don’t get too excited/downtrodden. It’s premature at this junction.
Okay you can be excited or upset now, depending on your allegiances.
Okay so TheGeneral.com commercials that are a play on Tinder are not any less weird than the QuestChat ads.
Morton gives up a hard-hit liner to right, and that’s a leadoff double for Greg Bird to kick off the fifth inning. Castro punches out for Morton’s fifth of the game, but he still has to get through Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier before he’s out of this with the lead intact.
Well that’s not good. There’s a passed ball on the walk to Hicks, which gets Bird to third. Will Harris is now getting going in the Astros’ bullpen as Morton starts to unravel. The Astros really can’t afford for Morton to not get out of this, considering it’s still only the fifth inning, his pitch count is low enough to push deep into this game, and their bullpen is, to use a professional term, bad.
Yooo Alex Bregman is showing off those defensive skills again. He throws home on a grounder, somehow gets the ball to wrap around Bird, and McCann makes a great play at the plate that means Bird cannot help but slide into a tag.
I know it wasn't that long of a throw, but to hit the exact spot necessary to get the runner out is incredible pic.twitter.com/9UL9abALJV— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 22, 2017
It’s still 1-0, the Astros got the lead runner, and there are now two outs with Chase Headley at the plate.
Chase Headley and the ump are having words after a low strike -- you could see Headley saying “I don’t think so” about the pitch in question. He ends the inning with a grounder to Altuve, and Morton escaped just like he absolutely had to. Still 1-0 Astros.
Here’s Kahnle again, and he enters the inning with Lance McCullers in the Astros’ bullpen. Looks like the plan here is that Morton already got through the lineup twice, and that’s as far as you want to push him, low pitch count or no.
Kahnle just gave up a homer to right to Altuve, and it’s 2-0, Astros. The battle of the bullpens is in Houston’s favor at the moment, but I should point out that’s also because they haven’t officially entered their pen into the fray yet.
Altuve learned the lesson of Yulu Gurriel, and hit the ball a couple rows back where Judge could not catch it. Correa follows with a single, and here’s the aforementioned Gurriel.
Gurriel pokes a ball through the right side of the infield, and that moves Correa to third with one out. That brings up Evan Gattis, who drove in the first run of the game with a solo shot. Kahnle already gave up his first run of the postseason, and is in very real danger of giving up another.
Gattis strikes out — the first time anyone on the Astros has struck out in Game 7 — and now McCann is up with two outs. Adam Warren is up in the Yankees’ bullpen, by the way. He’s thrown just three inning this entire postseason, so that’s... curious.
Warren isn’t awful or anything, it’s just that this is Game 7 and it’s already the fifth inning: Robertson, Green, and Chapman all exist, and even Sonny Gray is in there if the Yankees want to use this as his throw day. Hey, there’s no next start for Gray if they don’t win Game 7, and he’d have plenty of time to rest again, anyway.
McCann delivers with a bases-clearing double, and it’s now 4-0 Astros. If you’re a Yankees fan who wants to feel worse about all of this, I know how to help.
Reminder: The Yankees are paying $5.5 million of McCann's $17 million salary this season.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) October 22, 2017
The Yankees escape further damage, but their HP is already pretty low. Sorry about the RPG-speak, but it’s all I can think about after seeing Yuli Gurriel’s hair.
These QuestChat commercials are still hilarious to me. “Ah yes I’m a millenial who hates apps and ease of use and loves talking to strangers on the phone.”
Aaron Judge is now 0-for-2 after a groundout. He isn’t lasting long enough for strikeouts, but that’s because Morton is throwing strikes and the Yankees are trying to crush them.
There’s strikeout four for Morton, and on three pitches. That puts him at 3-2/3 innings, which is as long as he lasted in Game 3 of the ALCS. This start is going slightly better. And it’s through four innings after a liner to short.
I don’t quite buy Smoltz saying that Morton had a good but unlucky Game 3 — yes, he gave up some cheap hits and soft contact, but sometimes that’s a plan not working, too. Game 7’s plan — attacking the zone early to control the plate appearances — has been working pretty well so far.
That first pitch from Sabathia this inning was called a ball, but it sure caught a lot of the bottom of the strike zone for one of those. Gattis is making Sabathia work, and it pays off: pitch eight of the at-bat is a solo homer, and the Astros are ahead, 1-0.
McCann then draws a walk, and the Yankees’ bullpen is once again moving. There are still no outs, and now Gonzalez is up.
Joe Buck notes that the home run by Gattis was the first by a designated hitter during the entire postseason. The game misses bats like David Ortiz’s at that position. Maybe J.D. Martinez will head back to the AL this winter, and join up somewhere as a DH.
Here’s Reddick, still hitless in the ALCS. And hitless no more, as he goes the other way on a Sabathia fastball to pick up his first knock of the series. It’s first and second with one out, and there will be a new Yankees’ pitcher on the mound.
Tommy Kahnle has thrown 10 innings this October, allowing zero runs and just four total baserunners in those frames. He’s tasked with retiring George Springer, nd, absent a double play, Alex Bregman, too.
Kahnle got a double play, so the Yankees escaped the inning and only made their first reliever throw one pitch in the process. 1-0, Astros after four.
Charlie Morton comes back out firing, getting Todd Frazier to an 0-2 count in a hurry. Sure, Morton had a little help from the ump, but it wasn’t that far away. At least, not egregiously so. Frazier flies out to right, and Morton is through 2-1/3 on 19 pitches.
We’ve got an update on Gumghazi: going to your mouth is allowed, and Morton is still out here touching his gum between pitches despite Joe Girardi asking about what the deal with the gum is.
The Yankees are challenging a pretty nifty defensive play the Astros made, as Yuli Gurriel might not have had his foot on the bag for the out at first. The call stands, by the way, even if no one in the stadium had any idea what was being challenged and reviewed.
John Smoltz is explaining that pine tar is solely for grip, not better pitch movement, and more people should be aware that pitchers often use substances like that so they don’t accidentally throw a ball into orbit or at someone’s head in colder weather. As Smoltz points out, pine tar isn’t Vasoline.
Morton gets through this third shutout inning, and Game 7 is going a whole lot better for him than Game 3 did.
Springer’s second at-bat of the game doesn’t go as well as the first, as he grounds out on the third pitch. That brings up Bregman again. Sabathia, by the way, is at 31 pitches through 2-1/3 — it doesn’t matter too much what his pitch count is in this game, though, as Girardi will remove him at the first real sign of trouble, regardless of whether it’s at 40 pitches or 70 or 90.
Starlin Castro just knocked down a liner, but couldn’t get the ball and throw it in time to catch Bregman at first base. The Astros have one on, one down, and Altuve at the plate.
Sabathia is at 39 pitches, by the way, and here comes trouble. Altuve walked, Correa is up, and Sabathia now has 21 balls and 19 strikes after pitch 40 reaches Sanchez’s glove. The bullpen is up for the Yankees, and Tommy Kahnle is moving quick in case he’s needed in a hurry.
Correa grounded into a force out at second, but that gets Bregman to third base, and New York had no chance at a double play thanks to the throw.
Here’s Gurriel again, who would have a homer already if not for Judge’s glove. This one doesn’t go as far, but it’s the same result: Sabathia escaped the jam, and it’s still scoreless here in Houston.
It’ll be Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Starlin Castro here in the second for Morton. This inning already isn’t going as well as the first, because Sanchez got a leadoff single right where the second baseman usually would be.
On the bright side, Bird also swung at the first pitch but made an out, and Catro followed suit, so Morton is through 1-2/3 innings on just 13 pitches. The little things could make all the difference!
Aaron Hicks strands Bird on first on a strikeout, and Morton looks like he is dealing. See, more players should listen to me.
Joe Girardi out to talk with HP umpire Mark Carlson between innings. Could it be about Charlie Morton touching his gum between pitches?— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 22, 2017
Morton always touches his gum but it’s just gum, so oh wow I lost my train of thought because Aaron Judge just made a damn impressive jumping tall guy catch, which he is awesome at. That robbed Yuli Gurriel of extra bases, and maybe even a homer.
Let’s change “maybe even a homer” to “definitely would have been a homer,” as those last replays the FS1 broadcast showed made it clear that ball was going into the stands before Judge kept it from doing so.
Evan Gattis grounds out, bringing up Brian McCann, who if you’re not watching closely makes it look like Gattis is a switch-hitter who just changed sides of the plate after an out.
“McCann” walks on four pitches, and here’s Marwin Gonzalez, who has gone from “guy the broadcasters continually talk about for leading the Astros in RBI in the regular season” to “guy they never talk about much anymore because he makes outs too fast for them to comment on his season.”
Dammit Joe Buck don’t ruin my paragraph by then citing his RBI total after I type it out.
Gonzalez was shamed into getting a hit by me, obviously, so now there are two on for Josh Reddick, who is not only batting ninth now, but also doesn’t have a hit in the entire series. Now would be a good time — from the perspective of an Astros’ fan, anyway — for Reddick to make that 0-for-21 into 1-for-22. If you’re a Yankees fan, well, you don’t need me to expound on why they’d feel differently.
Reddick makes an out for the twenty second time this series, and we’re off to the third, still scoreless.
Charlie Morton did not do so well against the Yankees back in Game 3. I’m being very polite describing it that way. Morton lasted 3-2/3 innings, allowed seven runs and nine baserunners, and racked up 72 pitches over this short process. Sure he threw fast and that was cool since it’s still newish for him, but maybe try throwing well this time.
He’ll be facing Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius in the first inning. The Yankees haven’t lost an elimination game in 2017 yet — they’ve played four of them — but the 2017 postseason has also been all about the home team. So we’re going to find out which of those short-lived trends wins out!
Morton strikes out Brett Gardner on three pitches, and then sees Aaron Judge hit a foul ball that would have gone through a person had it found them. Judge ends up grounding out, bringing up Gregorius, not Sanchez.
Didi strikes out, so it’s a 1-2-3 inning for Charlie Morton, who is taking my advice from a few paragraphs ago to heart.
Since I’m live blogging, y’all get the good stuff, not Twitter.
Minute Maid sounds excited for baseball. Follow me on this website for more insight into the game.— Marc Normandin (@Marc_Normandin) October 22, 2017
You should still follow me, though.
Here comes CC Sabathia, who will face a different-looking Astros’ lineup this evening. It’s George Springer leading off per usual, but then Alex Bregman second, and Jose Altuve third. Josh Reddick, the usual guy in the two-spot, is batting ninth, while the usual nine guy, Brian McCann, is seventh.
Springer kicks things off with a single up-the-middle, when Sabathia leaves a little too much fastball over the plate.
Sabathia, by the way, has had a wonderful postseason even if his innings totals are low. He’s allowed four runs in 15-2/3 frames, good for a 2.30 ERA, and except for one game where Joe Girardi took him out before he should have and paid for it almost immediately, the bullpen has been able to handle any necessary cleanup.
Bregman grounds out, but makes Sabathia come off the mound to do it. It gets Springer to second, and me wondering how much, if at all, the Astros are going to attempt to bunt to make CC and his knees work overtime.
Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both fail to move Springer from scoring position to actually scoring, and we’re still tied up 0-0 after one.